Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) and Kuopio University Hospital published a study that found a wearable device used at home can help monitor symptoms of a progressive form of epilepsy. The study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that a wearable developed at UEF correlated positively with experienced physician assessments of muscular jerks in the arms of patients with progressive myoclonic epilepsy (EPM1).

EPM1 patients experience “myoclonus”: sudden muscle jerks. These jerks can be positive, when the muscle contracts, or negative, when a patient loses muscle control. Negative myoclonic jerks can result in a patient dropping something, losing their grip, falling, or being unable to control an object they were managing. Part of the EPM1 treatment process involves monitoring positive and negative myoclonic jerks. In standard clinical practice, a physician observes video of a patient and scores the symptoms with the Unified Myoclonus Scale (UMRS). The UMRS assessment assists healthcare teams in tracking the progress of the disease and treatment effectiveness.

In the UEF study, 23 EPM1 patients wore a device for 48 hours. The wearable measured skin surface electromyography (electrical impulses) and 3-dimensional acceleration. The sensor patches attached at the biceps brachii (BB) of the dominant arm and the extensor digitorum communis (forearm) of the non-dominant arm. Patients also self-reported on their own myoclonic jerks in a diary once an hour. The researchers video-recorded the patients during the 48 hours. A physician experienced in UMRS assessments scored the recorded video.

According to the study, myoclonic jerk assessments based on the objective data from the wearable correlated well with the experienced physician assessments and with the patients’ own evaluation of their symptoms.

Researchers and other participants in this study included personnel from three universities and eight companies, all in Finland. Study subject self-reporting is not generally considered terribly valid or reliable because of its subjective nature. This study, however, found general agreement in three levels of data, ranging from the subjective patient reporting, professional assessments by physicians experienced with the UMRS modality, and objective sensor data.

According to the researchers, because the wearable successfully detected both positive and negative myoclonic jerks, the technology is suitable for monitoring treatment effects at home and the progression of the disease. The UEF study is another example of wearables playing a positive role supporting remote patient care and remote patient monitoring RPM. It will support longer periods of observation — presumably while a patient goes about normal daily activities — and produce a richer set of data for physicians to use in analyzing a patient’s condition.