A biomedical engineering team from Mahidol University has won a champion award for an ankle-foot passive motion device for foot drop at the 7th International Conference on Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology 2013 in South Korea.
The winning project is the brainchild of Nida Vongsavat, a physical therapist at Golden Jubilee Medical Center and three students from Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering—Kittichai Tharawadeepimuk, Sittichai Iampetch and Lattika Tiawongsuwan.
The device is designed for rehabilitation for stroke patients and prevention of complications from foot drop including ankle joint stiffness and muscle contracture. Employing the principle of passive motion, the apparatus enables stroke patients to flex and stretch their ankles by themselves without help from caregivers by using the stronger ankle to assist the weaker one to move in a controlled range of motion that suits the latter's mobility.
Patients can use this exerciser in lying or sitting position and choose between LED light and beep sound for feedback when the ankle reaches the preset angle. It can also be connected to a display monitor for virtual reality gaming to encourage patients to exercise and to prevent them from moving the ankle too fast. While performing exercises, the patients would feel as if they are moving in the real environment, and the monitor also displays the score achieved for the exercise.
A trial conducted in patients at Golden Jubilee Medical Center to evaluate the effectiveness the prototype of the device shows it can reduce ankle joint stiffness by 73.5%.
Rehabilitation with passive motion machines has so far been available only at and confined to rehabilitation clinics. Designed for institutional use, these machines, however, are expensive, bulky and too complicated for patients to use on their own. In contrast, the new device is easy to use and maintain, and its price is affordable, making it ideal for ankle rehabilitation at home.
Patients with foot drop caused by diabetic peripheral neuropathy and back pains associated with nerve compression (slipped disc or herniated nucleus pulposus) can also use this device.