TU Ilmenau leads international research project Stroke rehabilitation via telemedicine
In a major international research project, the Technische Universität Ilmenau is developing a telemedicine method that will enable stroke patients to undergo rehabilitation at home. This would mean that people who have suffered motor dysfunctions as a result of brain damage would no longer be forced to go to hospital for rehabilitation measures. In Europe, such physical dysfunctions after a stroke are a major reason for the high need for care. The project, which will run for two years, is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research with almost 120,000 euros.
There is already a serious shortage of nursing staff throughout Europe. In rural regions in particular, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure adequate medical care and rehabilitation. If age-related illnesses increase sharply due to the aging population, the existing crisis in the nursing sector will worsen.
After a stroke, patients often suffer from motor dysfunction due to the damage to their brain. For example, the function of their arms or legs or muscle control may be impaired. Those who suffer such limitations require intensive care. Since physiotherapy and occupational therapy can significantly improve the quality of life of stroke patients, this is started in the hospital. But when those affected are discharged home after initial care, treatment often breaks down. There are still hardly any concepts for independent training of patients at home.
The large international research project TeleRehaBrain ("Individualized Rehabilitation Techniques for Patients with Acquired Brain Injury Using Telemedicine") aims to develop a so-called proof-of-principle solution using telemedicine, which would allow affected individuals to use personally tailored intensive motor rehabilitation measures in their home environment. This solution would demonstrate the feasibility of such treatment and thus promote the development of telemedicine methods for the rehabilitation of stroke patients. Treatment started in the hospital could be continued, resulting in sustained therapeutic success and a significant increase in patients' quality of life.
The head of the TeleRehaBrain project, Prof. Jens Haueisen, head of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at TU Ilmenau, sees great opportunities in such a digital platform: "If we bring rehab to their homes, so to speak, stroke patients are much more flexible: not only spatially, but also in terms of time. And through personalized and differentiated therapy, also much more motivated to make an effort."
To enable stroke rehab at home, two medical methods are being used for the first time worldwide in the home environment: real-time electroencephalography and transcranial electrical stimulation. This involves measuring and analyzing brain waves in real time and deriving parameters for electrical stimulation of the brain from the data obtained. In transcranial electrostimulation based on this, weak currents are then delivered via electrodes attached to the scalp to improve the reorganization of brain activity after a stroke. This is the first time that so-called dry EEG electrodes have been used for stroke patients in the home environment. The TU Ilmenau is a world leader in the field of dry EEG electrodes, which function without the electrode paste that is usually used. Thus, one of the core competencies of the biomedical technicians around Prof. Jens Haueisen is to correctly assign the EEG signals of the brain.
Under the leadership of the TU Ilmenau, the TeleRehaBrain project involves the University Hospital Jena as well as hospitals, research institutions and companies from the healthcare industry from Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine and Hungary. If the research project is successful, the TU Ilmenau aims to subsequently establish a network at EU level with the partners of Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe, which will have pioneering character in the rehabilitation of stroke patients in rural areas.
Prof. Jens Haueisen
Head of Institute for Biomedical Engineering
+49 3677 69-2861