After you finish reading this article approximately five people in the US will have suffered from a stroke and one of them will have died.
Of those who will survive, around 55 to 75% of stroke survivors will display impairments and will need long-term care and rehabilitation. They will be forced to see how their quality of life is reduced dramatically.
Strokes are the most usual cause of long-term disability, a worldwide issue, and a huge burden for patients and their families.
Around 5 million patients who have had a stroke need rehabilitation each year. Usually, these patients suffer devastating cognitive and motor disabilities. Unfortunately, current rehabilitation treatments for stroke either do not mean significant long-lasting eﬀects or are too expensive.
These staggering numbers show the urgency to resolve this issue which accounts for a total estimated annual cost of €35 billion in the USA according to The American Heart Association.
An emerging new therapy
As it was mentioned before, stroke patients usually have motor deficiencies as fine motor control skills or strength and all current therapies target these areas through repetitive exercises.
To guide patients in their rehabilitation process and improve their performance, a new rehabilitation training technology has emerged: Virtual Reality (VR).
This trendy technology has drawn the attention of many researchers who are starting to explore new kinds of digital therapies.
But how does it work VR in stroke therapy?
VR therapy consists of specifically designed interactive games which include real-life scenarios and activities relevant to the daily living of the patient.
So through these task-oriented and repetitive games, neurons get stimulated and induce a therapeutic effect on the brain that may reduce pain and increase function.
Virtual reality therapies are proved to produce wide cortical activation, which is essential for neuroplasticity and therefore, functional improvement after stroke.
One of the main hurdles in stroke therapy is the lack of motivation patients can experiment when they face repetitive exercises.
With VR the sky is the limit. Patients can be doing cycling exercises across Tuscany fields and after that jump in a moment to Times Square.
As Dr. Lisa Sheehy, researcher of Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital said: “You might get 300 steps in a session of VR whereas, without VR you might get 10 or 50,”. She stated that when patients are engaged and having fun they are motivated to work harder. For example, there was one man who could only stand for 30 seconds, and he did a game for three minutes”.
Another advantage of using virtual reality therapy is being able to offer many different treatment choices for each patient.
VR therapy can be personalized to provide the most suitable treatment which will optimize rehabilitation and help the patient to improve its condition.
The use of VR as stroke therapy is really promising and begins to be introduced in clinical settings. This is proof of how new technologies are disrupting the healthcare sector.
If you want to know more about VR applications within the healthcare sector and how we develop them please check this article.
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