Dutch researchers working on sensor-enabled suit to monitor stroke recovery

By Heather Mack
Share

Monitoring the everyday activity of people who have had a stroke is a challenge for doctors. So a team of researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands is working on a wearable tracker that can keep close tabs on patients as they recover – 41 tabs, to be exact.

Doctoral student Bart Klaasen worked with an international team of healthcare professionals and engineers to develop a sensor-embedded suit to be worn by people recovering from a stroke, with the goal of tracking their progress or limitations outside of clinical settings. The 41 sensors in the suit – which consists of slim, long-sleeved shirt and pants, fingerless gloves and force sensors in the soles of shoes and is designed to be worn under clothes for three months – track the wearer’s strength, flexibility and gait.

“Stroke survivors often have to cope with physical limitations. They generally take part in rehabilitation programs, which are intended to help patients function as effectively as possible in their everyday lives,” Klaasen said in a statement. “In practice, however, rehabilitation mainly takes place in rehabilitation clinics. Not enough is known about how, after completing such programs, patients cope with their limitations in a daily life setting. Yet it is known that a better understanding of how these people function in everyday life could lead to more effective rehabilitation, at a lower cost.”

The suit is also outfitted with a portable transmitter to wirelessly send data to servers at the university. As the project progresses, the plan is for the data to be transmitted directly to patient’s healthcare team.

“There has long been a great need for systems like this, but the technology simply was not ready,” Klaassen said. “That is now changing rapidly, thanks to rapid developments in the fields of battery technology, wearables, smart e-textiles and big data analysis.” 

For now, the suit has only been used in research, and while it isn’t known when it will be available for actual use, Klaasen said the system has been shown to work well in the course of his PhD research.

“We have been able to demonstrate that all the information is transmitted successfully, that this process is very efficient, and much more besides,” Klaasen said in a statement. “Our project has delivered new techniques and methods that can be used to monitor patients at home for extended periods of time, and to identify any differences with structured clinical measurements. We are currently engaged in further research to obtain final verification that these methods are indeed an ideal way of supervising rehabilitation.”

MobiHealthNews has reached out to the university about the project and will update if we hear back.