Manuela Zehetner is a Physiotherapist with an expertise in Neurology. Since 2015, she has been working at g.tec medical engineering in Schiedlberg (Austria), where she uses the recoveriX system based on Brain-Computer Interface technology for stroke rehabilitation. Most of Manuela’s patients had a stroke years ago, but for the first time in a very long time, they improved their motor functions and can now move their arms better than before. We asked Manuela about her experience and success with recoveriX training.
(c) Florian Voggeneder
Manuela, you are a physiotherapist working with stroke patients. What happens to the human brain during a stroke?
Manuela: “There are two different kinds of stroke:
- Ischemic insult = closure of the blood vessel (thrombus)
- haemorrhagic insult = bleeding of the brain (cracked blood vessel)
In both cases, the blood supply of the brain is damaged, which leads to an undersupply of oxygen in the brain. The longer the stroke is untreated, the more brain tissue dies. The resulting symptoms also depend on the location affected by the stroke. In addition to other factors that affect severity, the delay between the stroke and the start of acute medical treatment is very important.”
What handicaps or symptoms are stroke patients have to deal with?
Manuela:” In addition to hemiplegia, which is difficulty moving one side of the body, symptoms can include disturbances of fine motor skills, the superficial and deep sensitivity, spasticity, tremor, aphasia, visual field loss and cognitive disorders. In addition, it can also cause psychological pain and loss of independence, and thus lead to a reduction in quality of life.”
Can stroke patients fully recover?
Manuela:” Basically, many patients are able to recover completely after stroke. Again, this depends largely on on the location and the size of the brain damage resulting from stroke, and the delay before the patient gets medical treatment. More than one third of patients do not survive the first year after stroke, and another third suffer permanent disabilities.”
What does normal therapy look like?
Manuela: “In normal physiotherapy, the treatment depends on the particular symptoms and their characteristics. The initiation of motor functions and the training of daily life activities are both very important. Examples of possible therapies include PNF training for the initiation of motor function and subsequent functional training, such as gait training. Of course, the treatment then also entails strength training, sensitivity training, pain and perception training, balance training and more. In addition to physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy also play a central role.”
You are working with recoveriX, a new neuro-technological method for stroke rehabilitation. What benefits does this system provide for you, and for patients?
Manuela: “Using recoveriX in stroke therapy provides many advantages: Treatment is possible in the acute phase as well as in the chronic phase (training in the acute phase can shorten the hospital stay and rehabilitation period significantly; in the chronic phase, it can lead to improvements after other forms of treatment have been exhausted); Brain maps and other details to assess patient compliance with movement imagination tasks and assess improvement with training; and it enables quicker and better restoration of motor function, since brain plasticity is encouraged.”
(c) Florian Voggeneder
How do the patients like the therapy with recoveriX?
Manuela: “So far, all patients have really been fascinated with the idea of the therapy. They can control an avatar and their own hand movement by their mind. For them, it’s a completely new approach, and chance to be able to move again and thus improve quality of life.”
Can standard stroke therapy be replaced through recoveriX treatment?
Manuela: “The recoveriX therapy is not designed to replace standard therapy. It can help to make therapy easier and reduce therapy time in the early (acute) phase after stroke. In the chronic stage, it can also be used as standalone therapy.”
Can all physiotherapists use the recoveriX system for their stroke therapy?
Manuela: “Yes. Because recoveriX is designed for ease of use, everybody with medical or therapy background can learn to perform the recoveriX therapy with only brief training.”
Thanks for the interview, Manuela!