A new use-of-concept study found that stroke patients given virtual reality therapy were consistent in completing the therapy and preferred a version which let them connect to others.
The study included both a multi-user version, which let participants interact with others remotely, and a single-user version, which they completed on their own. Participants that used a multi-user version of the VR therapy were more likely to engage, and use the technology for longer periods of time, according to the research.
"Our goal was to create an online, virtual reality platform that allows patients and therapists to interact in what is essentially real time," Derek Kamper, co-author of a paper on the work, said in a statement. ”Clients could also use the system to work on therapy exercises with loved ones who live far away."
In the abstract, published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, researchers said they found that the new technology was also able to perform on par with traditional in-person therapy.
Ninety-nine percent of multi-user participants and 89% of single-user mode participants completed the study, according to the study abstract. Researchers found that people using the multi-user system participated in the therapy for 22% more time than their counterparts in the single-use case.
The VR treatment also showed significant improve in patients’ Fugl-Meyer Upper-extremity (FMUE) score, which is used to assess stroke patients, researchers wrote in the abstract.
HOW IT WAS DONE
The use-of-concept study included 20 patients who had experienced a stroke and subsequent chronic impairment. A majority of the participants (17) were men and the mean age was 60 years. Each patient received the VR treatment called VERGE for a total of four weeks.
The group was randomly split into two groups for the multi-user and single-user version of the therapy. At the two-week period, the groups swapped which version of the therapy they were using.
More and more innovators and medical professionals are looking to VR as an avenue for stroke care. In 2018 rehabilitation research group the Kessler Foundation and immersive interactive technologies company Virtualware announced they are teaming up to develop a VR-based treatment for spatial neglect in stroke patients.
Swiss company MindMaze scored $100 million in funding for its VR to help stroke patients in their recovery.
ON THE RECORD
"While these results are promising, we'd like to scale up to a larger, multi-site study that can help us more fully evaluate the technology before making any decisions about how to make it available for widespread clinical use,” Kamper said. “For example, we'd like to incorporate loved ones into the next round of testing, to see if that could further increase patient engagement with therapeutic exercises.”