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New device for stroke patients

June 4, 2009 3:56:05 PM PDT
Stroke sufferers often have a very tough time in rehabilitation. Improvement is often very slow and frustrating. Now, a doctor at Montefiore Medical Center has designed a device that can help stroke sufferers make bigger strides towards getting better. It looks like a parachute training harness. But for patients like 66-year-old Leona Charles, this unusual looking rehab gear can help her to get back on her feet again. Leona had a stoke that left her with balance problems and a paralyzed left side.

"When I grabbed onto something, I see that I could not lift up my weight," said Leona.

When patients use parallel bars to help them walk, there is always the chance they could fall and injure themselves, despite a physical therapists being present. But the walking device, called Navigaiter, suspends stroke patients so they can move wherever they want.

"In life, you don't walk on a treadmill, you don't walk on a track, you have to go up, you have to go down, " said Dr. Avital Fast, at Montefiore Medical Center.

The Navigaitor makes rehab faster. Patients can strengthen stroke-affected muscles quicker with the device than if they were using, for example, parallel bars. The Navigaitor will follow a patient as they walk. And if the patient happens to miss a step, the device holds him or her her up and won't let the patient fall.

Leona's therapist sees other improvements, too.

"This device leaves patients with less anxiety of falling, so they're able to move ahead faster and walk," said Myra Choi.

"Even though you're harnessed, you're not scared because you know you can't fall," said Leona.

Dr. Fast says the device can be used for patients with muscle diseases and even those with paralysis of all four limbs. He says it can take patients weeks to walk up a mild incline using traditional therapy. With the Navigaitor, it can take as little as five sessions.

Web produced by Maura Sweeney


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