Accenture develops gamified VR tool to treat phantom limb

Accenture is now deploying its VR tool worldwide after completing initial studies in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
By Laura Lovett
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Accenture has developed a new virtual reality game designed to help amputees with phantom limb syndrome. The technology, which is a combination of company’s SAP Cloud Platform, SAP for Leonardo and a connected armband, gameifies physical therapy for amputees. The program was developed to encourage patients to participate in therapy exercises with their new prosthetic limb. In part, it was also built to help with patients' pain during these exercises, according to the company. 

The latest technology was developed by the Accenture Liquid Studio, and was designed so that clinicians had their own dashboard to create personal plans for patients. It also lets providers see electrical signals in a patient’s muscles. 

After recently being tested in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where initial studies found the technology improved patient confidence and engagement, the technology is now being donated to hospitals worldwide. 

Why it matters

Phantom limb typically occurs shortly after a patient has had a limb amputated, according to the Mayo Clinic, and can feel like shooting, stabbing, throbbing or burning and can be uncomfortable. 

The condition is very common in patients who have had a limb amputated. According to the Amputee Coalition, 80 percent of the amputee population worldwide has experienced phantom limb pain. 

“Phantom limb pain is a chronic, physically and mentally debilitating condition for most patients after undergoing amputations,” Candida Luzo, head of occupational therapy at Hospital das Clinicas, where Accenture donated and developed the app, said in a statement. “Accenture has demonstrated a viable, low-cost option to assist in the rehabilitation of patients with amputations. This will be an invaluable tool in our physical and occupational therapy programs.”

What's the trend

This isn’t the first time researchers have developed a VR program to treat phantom limb. In July a team of European researchers published a study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry describing a virtual reality experience powered by a headset and touch-enabled prosthetics that could help trick the brain into recognizing an amputee’s false arm as an extension of their body.

On the record 

“Our application takes intelligent technologies such as Internet of Things, analytics and virtual reality to rapidly create an easy-to-use, cost-effective application. It captures real-time data for better measurements and personalized therapy plans that can improve physical progress and decrease phantom limb pain for people with amputations,” Daniel Gonzalez, managing director and Accenture Liquid Studio lead for Accenture Brazil, said in a statement. “We developed this application with input from healthcare professionals and patients to help drive social change and transformation by tackling challenges in new ways.”