Northwestern University researchers, in partnership with Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, have developed a stretchable sensor designed to be worn on the throat and provide various health metrics as part of a stroke patient’s recovery.
The sensor, designed by Northwestern University engineering professor John A. Rogers, is designed to measure patients’ swallowing ability and patterns of speech to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of aphasia, a communication disorder associated with stroke.
The tools that speech-language pathologists have traditionally used to monitor patients’ speech function—such as microphones—cannot distinguish between patients’ voices and ambient noise.
“Our sensors solve that problem by measuring vibrations of the vocal cords,” Rogers says, in a media release from Northwestern University. “But they only work when worn directly on the throat, which is a very sensitive area of the skin. We developed novel materials for this sensor that bend and stretch with the body, minimizing discomfort to patients.”
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab uses the throat sensor in conjunction with electronic biosensors—also developed in Rogers’ lab—on the legs, arms, and chest to monitor stroke patients’ recovery progress. The intermodal system of sensors streams data wirelessly to clinicians’ phones and computers, providing a quantitative, full-body picture of patients’ advanced physical and physiological responses in real time.
“One of the biggest problems we face with stroke patients is that their gains tend to drop off when they leave the hospital,” states Arun Jayaraman, research scientist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and a wearable technology expert, in the release. “With the home monitoring enabled by these sensors, we can intervene at the right time, which could lead to better, faster recoveries for patients.”
Because the sensors are wireless, they eliminate barriers posed by traditional health monitoring devices in clinical settings. Patients can wear them even after they leave the hospital, allowing doctors to understand how their patients are functioning in the real world, the release continues.
“Talking with friends and family at home is a completely different dimension from what we do in therapy,” adds Leora Cherney, research scientist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and an expert in aphasia treatment.
“Having a detailed understanding of patients’ communication habits outside of the clinic helps us develop better strategies with our patients to improve their speaking skills and speed up their recovery process.”
Data from the sensors will be presented in a dashboard that is easy for both clinicians and patients to understand. It will send alerts when patients are underperforming on a certain metric and allow them to set and track progress toward their goals.
[Source(s): Northwestern University, Newswise]