Virtual reality video games, activity monitors, and handheld computer devices can help people stand as well as walk, the largest trial worldwide into the effects of digital devices in rehabilitation has found. The study was undertaken at hospitals in Sydney and Adelaide, Australia, and had 300 participants ranging from 18 to 101 years old. Those who exercised using digital devices in addition to their usual rehabilitation were found to have better mobility (walking, standing up, and balance) after 3 weeks and after 6 months than those who just completed their usual rehabilitation. The results were published in PLOS Medicine.
Trial participants were recovering from strokes, brain injuries, falls, and fractures. Participants used on average 4 different devices while in hospital and 2 different devices when at home. Fitbits were the most used digital device but also tested were a suite of devices like Xbox, Wii, and iPads, making the exercises more interactive and enabling remote connection between patients and their physical therapists. Having a selection meant the physical therapist could tailor the choice of devices to meet the patient’s mobility problems while considering patient preferences.
Lead author Leanne Hassett, PhD, from the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney, said benefits reported by patients using the digital devices in rehabilitation included variety, fun, feedback about performance, cognitive challenge, that they enabled additional exercise, and the potential to use the devices with others, such as family, therapists, and other patients. “These benefits meant patients were more likely to continue their therapy when and where it suited them, with the assistance of digital healthcare,” she said.
Participants reported doing more walking at 6 months, meaning their rehabilitation was improved, but this was not detected in the physical activity measure (time spent upright) generally. In the younger age group, the devices also increased daily step count. Distinctions between physical activity were made through measurements with an activPAL, a small device attached to the thigh that records how much time is spent in different positions (sitting, standing, lying) as well as number of steps taken each day.
This study used research physical therapists to deliver the study; the next step will be to trial the approach in clinical practice by incorporating it into the work of physical therapists.
The rehabilitation of cognitive and behavioral abnormalities in individuals with stroke is essential for promoting patient’s recovery and autonomy. The aim of our study is to evaluate the effects of robotic neurorehabilitation using Lokomat with and without VR on cognitive functioning and psychological well-being in stroke patients, as compared to traditional therapy.
Ninety stroke patients were included in this randomized controlled clinical trial. The patients were assigned to one of the three treatment groups, i.e. the Robotic Rehabilitation group undergoing robotic rehab with VR (RRG+VR), the Robotic Rehabilitation Group (RRG-VR) using robotics without VR, and the Conventional Rehabilitation group (CRG) submitted to conventional physiotherapy and cognitive treatment.
The analysis showed that either the robotic training (with and without VR) or the conventional rehabilitation led to significant improvements in the global cognitive functioning, mood, and executive functions, as well as in activities of daily living. However, only in the RRG+VR we observed a significant improvement in cognitive flexibility and shifting skills, selective attention/visual research, and quality of life, with regard to the perception of the mental and physical state.
Our study shows that robotic treatment, especially if associated with VR, may positively affect cognitive recovery and psychological well-being in patients with chronic stroke, thanks to the complex interation between movement and cognition.
A stroke is usually considered chronic at the six-month mark. This article reviews research on chronic stroke recovery and promising therapy treatment approaches that target improving limb function, even for an “old” stroke.
By Natalie Miller, Clinical Manager / Occupational Therapist. More posts by Natalie Miller.
27 MAR 2020 • 5 MIN READ
What is a chronic stroke?
The term chronic stroke typically refers to a time frame of at least six months after the initial stroke incident occurred. As a person enters this stage and moves onward to years of stroke survival, he may start to encounter all new frustrations related to recovery, especially regarding motor recovery and use of the affected arm.
In the medical world, “most significant” recovery of movement is generally considered to happen within the first six months, with spontaneous recovery slowing after that time. There is a push for high-intensity and high-frequency of therapy while the stroke is still fairly fresh, in order to capitalize on the “critical window” of the highest responsiveness to treatment.
That doesn’t mean we should stop addressing motor recovery after six months. What if we still focus on intensive therapy early on in stroke rehab, but also find ways to promote motor recovery six or more months later? What if we don’t stop searching for new strategies to improve, or at the very least, not lose function of the weaker arm?
Can I still improve function if I am in the chronic stage of stroke?
Our understanding of the brain and its capabilities is constantly evolving. We used to think that adult brains couldn’t change at all after a certain age! Emerging research evidence suggests there are ways to challenge and improve the chronic stroke brain months and even years down the road. One large-scale study involving outcomes from 219 stroke survivors suggested the critical window for motor recovery may be as long as 18 months! Another recent case study highlighted motor recovery in a stroke survivor who was 23 years post-stroke!
What types of rehabilitation are effective for people with chronic stroke?
Stroke research suggests the following treatments are promising for individuals who are at least six months post-stroke:
Mental Practice with Motor Imagery
Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT)
Virtual Reality (VR)
Preventing Learned Non-Use
Mental Practice with Motor Imagery
This is a type of treatment where a specific movement is rehearsed mentally. Done best with a pre-recorded audio set, the person listens carefully as a task is described in detail. The details usually include every aspect of that task, including how the five senses may be experienced while performing it, as well as the exact movements that would be needed to complete the task. For example, if the task were “drinking a cup of water,” the recording would describe how to reach out with the arm, extend the fingers, feel the weight of the cup, experience the temperature and the liquid as it touches the mouth, and the exactness of the motion to set it back down gently.
Studies have shown that with this type of repetitive visualization and practice, actual movement and functional use of the arm can improve, such that an arm that was once fairly “useless” can now actually pick up a water cup and bring it to the mouth. The best part is, research also shows that this can be an effective treatment 12 months and beyond since when the stroke actually happened!
Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT)
This is a type of treatment that involves blocking the stronger arm (usually with a cast or mitt) to promote engagement of the hemiplegic, or weaker arm. The more a person uses the weaker arm, the less they are at risk of “learned non-use.” By “forcing” the weaker arm to participate more, and even to be the primary or only source of function, it has a lot more chance to stay the same or get better, even years after the stroke happened. In fact, patients in Constraint Induced studies reported and showed increased use of their arms during normal activities, even if their strokes happened years before!
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality is another name for video games! This type of treatment may be immersive (using a headset) or non-immersive, with a participant engaging in a game on a screen. VR technology focusing on strengthening and improving limb function is becoming more prevalent in clinics and in homes. These programs are able to quantify arm or leg movement to control gameplay and provide immediate performance feedback.
Research supports the use of VR therapy to enhance motor recovery for adults with acute and chronic stroke. Virtual reality technology can also improve motivation in addition to movement outcomes, helping users stick with their self-training programs and continue using their affected side. Research shows that chronic stroke patients often find self-training programs that use video games to be user friendly and enjoyable.
Avoiding “learned non-use.”
We now know more about this phenomenon that affects many stroke survivors – especially those who are years out from a stroke. The stronger arm starts to take over to just get things accomplished, probably because there is a lot of positive feedback for using the stronger arm (It’s faster! It’s easier! I can just get it done!) and a lot of negative feedback for using the stroke-affected arm (It’s so frustrating! It takes me forever using it!). Research is showing that if people can still find motivation and dedication to actually trying to use the weaker arm, it is possible to still regain function – even years later.
The bottom line: don’t give up!
There IS hope. We can’t predict the exact amount of movement or strength that could come back, or what exactly you will be able to do with your affected arm or hand. But we are producing more research that is pointing us in the direction of believing recovery is still possible after that six month critical window. Don’t give up!
Ballester, BR, et al. (2019). A critical time window for recovery extends beyond one-year post-stroke. Journal of Neurophysiology, 122: 350-357. doi: 10.1152/jn.00762.2018 Soros, P, et al. (2017). Motor recovery beginning 23 years after ischemic stroke. Journal of Neurophysiology, 118(2): 778-781. doi: 10.1152/jn.00868.2016 Page, S, Levine, P, and Leonard, A. (2007). Mental practice in chronic stroke: results of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Stroke, 38(4): 1293-1297. doi: 10.1161/01.STR.0000260205.67348.2b Kunkel, A, et al. (1999). Constraint-induced movement therapy for motor recovery in chronic stroke patients. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 80, 624-628. doi:10.1016/s0003-9993(99)90163-6 5. Taub, E, et al. (1993). Technique to improve chronic motor deficit after stroke. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 74, 347-354. Subramanian, SK, et al. (2013). Arm motor recovery using a virtual reality intervention in chronic stroke: Randomized control trial. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 27(1), 13-23. doi: 10.1177/1545968312449695.
Introduction: Virtual reality (VR) are user-computer interface platforms that implement real-time simulation of an activity or environment, allowing user interaction via multiple sensory modalities. VR therapy may be an effective intervention for improving cognitive function following stroke. The aim of this systematic review was to examine the effectiveness of exercise-based VR therapy on cognition post-stroke.
Methods: Electronic databases were searched for terms related to “stroke”, “virtual reality”, “exercise” and “cognition”. Studies were included if they: (1) were randomized-controlled trials; (2) included VR-based interventions; (3) included individuals with stroke; and (4) included outcome measures related to cognitive function. Data from included studies were synthesised qualitatively and where possible, random effects meta-analyses were performed.
Results: Eight studies involving 196 participants were included in the review, of which five were included in meta-analyses (n = 124 participants). Studies varied in terms of type (combination of VR therapy and conventional therapy, combination of VR therapy and computer-based cognitive training, VR therapy alone) and duration of interventions (20–180 min), sample size (n = 12–42), length of the interventions (4–8 weeks), and cognitive outcomes examined. VR therapy was not more effective than control for improving global cognition (n = 5, SMD = 0.24, 95%CI:−0.30,0.78, p = .38), memory (n = 2 studies, SMD= 0.00, 95%CI: −0.58, 0.59, p = .99), attention (n = 2 studies, MD = 8.90, 95%CI: −27.89, 45.70, p = .64) or language (n = 2 studies, SMD = 0.56, 95%CI: −0.08,1.21, p = .09).
Conclusion: VR therapy was not superior to control interventions in improving cognition in individuals with stroke. Future research should include high-quality and adequately powered trials examining the impact of virtual reality therapy on cognition post-stroke.
Implications for rehabilitation
Virtual reality therapy is a promising new form of technology that has been shown to increase patient satisfaction towards stroke rehabilitation.
Virtual reality therapy has the added benefits of providing instant feedback, and the difficulty can be easily modified, underscoring the user-friendliness of this form of rehabilitation.
Virtual reality therapy has the potential to improve various motor, cognitive and physical deficits following stroke, highlighting its usefulness in rehabilitation settings.
Virtual reality (VR) games has the potential to improve patient outcomes in stroke rehabilitation. However, there is limited information on VR games as an adjunct to standard physiotherapy in improving upper limb function. This study involved 36 participants in both experimental (n = 18) and control (n = 18) groups with a mean age (SD) of 57 (8.20) and 63 (10.54) years, respectively. Outcome measures were the Fugl-Meyer assessment for upper extremities (FMA-UE), Wolf motor function test (WMFT), intrinsic motivation inventory (IMI), Lawton of instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), and stroke impact scale (SIS) assessed at pre-post intervention. The experimental group had 0.5 h of upper limb (UL) VR games with 1.5 h of standard physiotherapy, and the control group received 2 h of standard physiotherapy. The intervention for both groups was performed once a week for eight consecutive weeks. The results showed a significant time–group interaction effect for IMI (p = 0.001), Lawton IADL (p = 0.01) and SIS domain of communication (p = 0.03). A significant time effect was found in FMA-UE (p = 0.001), WMFT (p = 0.001), Lawton IADL (p = 0.01), and SIS domains; strength, ADL and stroke recovery (p < 0.05). These results indicated an improvement in UL motor ability, sensory function, instrumental ADL, and quality of life in both groups after eight weeks of intervention. However, no significant (p > 0.05) group effect on all the outcome measures was demonstrated. Thus, replacing a portion of standard physiotherapy time with VR games was equally effective in improving UL function and general health compared to receiving only standard physiotherapy among stroke survivors.
Stroke is a leading cause of significant disability among adults globally . Rehabilitation is of utmost importance with an increase in the number of stroke survivors . Stroke rehabilitation requires a multidisciplinary approach, is long-term and challenging due to its complexity . Recent evidence suggests that the extension of a stroke rehabilitation programme may lead to further improvement in function and quality of life among stroke survivors .
Persistent upper limb (UL) dysfunction after a stroke is one of the most challenging issues in rehabilitation . Increasing the dose of rehabilitation among stroke survivors may improve outcomes, and one of the strategies includes performing self-administered exercises using VR games technology . VR is a computer-assisted technology that can provide users with experiences of a simulated “real” environment . VR technology has been used in rehabilitation in addition to standard physiotherapy, or as a preventive therapy . VR-based rehabilitation also offers the capacity to individualise treatment needs while providing the standardisation of assessment and training protocols .
Earlier evidence suggested that VR technology can provide a unique medium whereby rehabilitation can be delivered in a functional and purposeful manner . Moreover, VR technology-based rehabilitation can be readily graded and documented . Other than that, stroke survivors can perform VR training at their home and the therapist can monitor from a distance, known as tele-rehabilitation . Compliance towards treatment and rehabilitation is a vital factor to consider in stroke management . Hence, VR rehabilitation has the potential to improve patient participation, enable intensive therapy and reduce demand on health care professionals [5,6,7].
In previous studies, VR games were shown to be effective in improving physical function among stroke survivors , balance and functional mobility in older adults [10,11], and upper limb reaction time in adults with physical disabilities . However, balance and mobility issues were examined rather than upper limb function [9,11]. There is also limited information on VR games as an adjunct to standard physiotherapy. Moreover, previous evidence mainly demonstrates the effects of VR as a standalone intervention among stroke survivors [13,14]. For example, in a pilot crossover design study involving 14 participants with chronic stroke, VR game-assisted intervention was performed for 45–60 min for a duration of 2.5 weeks . The results showed improved UL motor performance using the Fugl-Meyer assessment for upper extremities (FMA-UE) as the primary outcome measure. In our present study, we aimed to examine the effectiveness of VR games as an adjunct to standard physiotherapy in improving upper limb (UL) function and general health among stroke survivors.[…]
Stroke has increased in incidence worldwide. Although its mortality has reduced, it is the disease with the highest percentage of disability. For this reason, it is necessary to find new methods of rehabilitation and recovery from sequalae after a stroke, such as virtual reality (VR) therapy.
To analyse the effectiveness of VR as a rehabilitation therapy for movement improvement in adults after suffering a stroke.
A literature review was carried out through a systematic search in the PubMed, ScienceDirect and EBSCO databases (Medline Complete, Academic Search Complete, Academic Search Ultimate and E-Journal). A date restriction of the last five years and a language restriction in English and Spanish were applied.
A total of 13 studies met the inclusion/exclusion criteria and the objectives of this review. The selected studies compared conventional therapy (CT) with VR therapy, or CT with the combination of CT + VR, and other studies assessed VR effectiveness in isolation.
VR therapy would be effective for improving movement in post-stroke patients, either in isolation or as a complement to conventional therapy. The type of VR most used for stroke rehabilitation is the semi-immersive of second person that is generally applied six months after suffering a stroke. Unfortunately, it has not yet been possible to determine the efficacy of VR according to the brain region affected.
What was once a science fiction fantasy, virtual reality (VR) technology has evolved and come a long way. Together with augmented reality (AR) technology, these simulations of an alternative environment have been incorporated into rehabilitation treatments. The introduction of head-mounted displays has made VR/AR devices more intuitive and compact, and no longer limited to upper-limb rehabilitation. However, there is still limited evidence supporting the use of VR and AR technology during locomotion, especially regarding the safety and efficacy relating to walking biomechanics. Therefore, the objective of this study is to explore the limitations of such technology through gait analysis. In this study, thirteen participants walked on a treadmill in normal, virtual and augmented versions of the laboratory environment. A series of spatiotemporal parameters and lower-limb joint angles were compared between conditions. The center of pressure (CoP) ellipse area (95% confidence ellipse) was significantly different between conditions (p = 0.002). Pairwise comparisons indicated a significantly greater CoP ellipse area for both the AR (p = 0.002) and VR (p = 0.005) conditions when compared to the normal laboratory condition. Furthermore, there was a significant difference in stride length (p<0.001) and cadence (p<0.001) between conditions. No statistically significant difference was found in the hip, knee and ankle joint kinematics between the three conditions (p>0.082), except for maximum ankle plantarflexion (p = 0.001). These differences in CoP ellipse area indicate that users of head-mounted VR/AR devices had difficulty maintaining a stable position on the treadmill. Also, differences in the gait parameters suggest that users walked with an unusual gait pattern which could potentially affect the effectiveness of gait rehabilitation treatments. Based on these results, position guidance in the form of feedback and the use of specialized treadmills should be considered when using head-mounted VR/AR devices.
Over the past two decades, the application of virtual reality (VR) technology in a healthcare setting has become increasingly popular. It has been incorporated into clinical practices such as in the rehabilitation of stroke survivors, as well as patients with cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis [1–3]. There is ample evidence suggesting that VR-based rehabilitation facilitates upper limb motion  and dynamic balance  among stroke survivors. More recently, research groups have also investigated the use of VR in dynamic situations (i.e. treadmill walking), aiming to improve balance and facilitate gait recovery [6–9].
In current clinical practice, gait retraining often includes treadmill training under the supervision of practitioners or through provision of real-time biofeedback. It is a widely adopted technique that aims to permanently correct faulty gait patterns and has been found to be effective in both walking and running gait modifications [10–12]. For example, a recently published randomized controlled trial showed that gait retraining was an effective intervention for reduction of knee loading and also improved symptoms among patients with early knee osteoarthritis . Incorporation of VR technology into conventional gait retraining has the potential to further enhance training outcomes. VR allows users to actively interact with a simulated environment in real-time and offers the opportunity to practice skills acquired in the virtual environments to everyday life . VR-based gait retraining has the potential to facilitate implicit learning, enhance variety, and actively engage the patient during training. These attributes are crucial in the optimization of motor learning and could maximize the training effect .
Walking is normally an automatic process. It has been suggested that conscious modification to walking patterns could affect gait retraining adaptations . A previous study found that subjects who trained with distraction were able to retain the training effect longer than the group who focused on correction . VR-based retraining could include different tasks and games while the patients modify their gait pattern as it could help patients to maintain focus and promote implicit motor learning. Moreover, the training environment, feedback type and level of difficulty of tasks can be manipulated within the VR environment relatively effortlessly for the clinician, as compared to conventional gait retraining. Variation in training has been shown to promote a more robust motor pattern and favor adaptation [16,17]. Moreover, motivation and adherence among patients can also be improved with more variation and an adjustable level of difficulty provided in the VR-based training . Stroke survivors were previously found to be more actively engaged in a VR-based training than a conventional task-oriented intervention to improve motor function . The training environment can be designed to simulate real-life activities and include task-specific training and a natural experience can be achieved through immersive VR devices, such as using a head-mounted display (HMD) . Studies have supported task-specific motor skill training with VR in helping to drive neuroplasticity in individuals with progressive neurodegenerative disorder [4,21].
Although multiple studies have reported positive results of gait retraining using VR among various patient groups within the lab [1,5,22,23], there is still little understanding of the limitations and challenges for using VR technology clinically. One overriding concern for using VR technology in clinical applications, especially an HMD, is safety. The user may not be able to recognize his/her own body position when using an immersive VR device, which could result in physical injuries, particularly if the user fails to stay within the boundaries of the treadmill. Suspension devices (i.e. an over-head harness) have been used for protection during VR-based gait rehabilitation , and a recent study showed that both young and older adults were able to use HMD during walking without adverse effects . However, the limit of VR technology on safety was not quantified or discussed. Recent technological advances in both the hardware and software of HMD might allow for safer use. However, there is still a need for evidence-based support and quantifiable data, which could help with practical considerations among VR applications in a clinical setting.
Another concern for gait rehabilitation would be the regularity and quality of gait. Through studying spatiotemporal gait parameters, some studies have reported that walking in a projected VR environment can induce gait instability even in healthy participants [24,25]. Nowadays, VR-based gait retraining using HMD focuses primarily on gait restoration after stroke ; the changes in natural gait due to the use of HMD may not be clinically significant. However, it is crucial for particular patient groups undergoing gait modification to maintain a certain level of regularity in their gait pattern. For instance, knee loading can be affected by spatiotemporal parameters such as cadence and step length  and VR was previously found to alter such parameters in an over-ground setting . The treatment effect of gait retraining in reducing knee loading would likely be affected if the patient’s baseline walking gait was already altered by the use of HMD or other VR devices. The aforementioned studies did not quantify the changes in walking biomechanics when using a HMD, therefore, this study aimed to identify gait parameters that were affected by the use of HMD.
An alternative to VR is Augmented Reality (AR), which does not fully immerse the user in a simulated environment but includes virtual elements that are superimposed on a real-world view . For example, external cues on foot placement could be overlaid on to the walking surface in order to facilitate gait adjustments [28,29]. The addition of feedback in AR-based gait retraining allows for variations in training and could enhance the gait retraining effect. Yet, there is also a lack of understanding of the limitation of using AR devices. Therefore, this study also aimed to examine the biomechanical changes induced by the HMD within an AR setting.
This study was designed to assess whether the use of commercially available HMD in VR and AR settings were suitable for clinical gait retraining. Specifically, the aim was to quantify the limitations of current VR and AR technology based on two practical concerns for clinical applications: 1) safety: the ability of the user to maintain a relatively stable position within the treadmill and 2) natural gait patterns: deviation of walking biomechanics from that of normal-treadmill walking. We hypothesized that there would be variations in the control of body position relative to the treadmill between both VR and AR conditions when compared with normal-treadmill walking. Also, based on altered gait biomechanics reported with the use of HMD in an over-ground setting , we hypothesized there would be variation in the spatiotemporal and joint kinematic measures while walking in VR and AR conditions, when compared with normal-treadmill walking.
Materials and methods
A total of 13 participants (7 females, 6 males; age = 24.6 ± 4.5 years; weight = 63.1 ± 14.5 kg; height = 1.68 ± 0.11 m) were recruited for this study through convenient sampling, which is a comparable sample size to previous studies [30–32]. Participants were free of any musculoskeletal, neurological, neuromuscular or cardiovascular pathology that might hinder walking. The experimental procedures were reviewed and approved by the Departmental Research Committee of the department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Ref.: HSEARS20161018001) and written informed consent was obtained from all participants prior to the experiment.
Participants were asked to walk at a self-selected pace for four minutes to allow for treadmill adaptation prior to data collection . Anthropometric data, including leg length, knee width and ankle width [34–36], were recorded and 39 reflective markers were affixed to specific bony landmarks based on the Vicon Plug-in-Gait® full body model . The marker model was previously established for the measurement of lower-limb kinematics . This study was designed to assess HMD in VR and AR settings using a commercially available model within a typical clinical setting. Thus, the conditions were designed to be simple and without the use of additional lab equipment. All walking trials were conducted on a dual-belt instrumented treadmill (Force-sensing tandem treadmill, AMTI, Watertown, MA, USA; length x width = 1.2 x 0.6 m). Participants wore their own usual shoes and walked under different conditions at 3.0 km/h (0.83 m/s) for three minutes each. The three conditions were Control, VR and AR, details were as follows:
Control: Treadmill walking without the HMD;
Virtual reality (VR): Immersive 360° panoramic image of the laboratory captured by the Samsung Gear 360 Cam (Samsung, Seoul, South Korea), set up instructions and image file used are provided in the supporting information (S1 File and S1 Fig).
Augmented reality (AR): Real-time display through the rear camera of the HMD, set up instructions are provided in the supporting information (S2 File).
For the AR and VR conditions, participants wore a head-mounted VR device (Samsung Gear VR SM-R322 and Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung, Seoul, South Korea; width x height x depth: 201.93 x 92.71 x 116.33 mm). The immersive VR/AR environment within this study refers to the panoramic display in a first-person perspective with complete visual obstruction to the real-world environment. The HMD used in this study weighs a total of 470 g, which is comparable to typical commercial HMD models (HTC VIVE Pro: 555 g  and Oculus Rift DK2: 440 g ). Adjustments to the device were made for fit, focus, and orientation for each participant. Participant’s comfort was confirmed through subjective reporting before the beginning of each walking trial.
The test sequence was randomized using a web-based software (www.randomizer.org). To ensure safety, participants were supported by an overhead safety harness providing 0% bodyweight support. The experimental setup is indicated in Fig 1. The individual in Fig 1 of this manuscript has given written informed consent (as outlined in PLOS consent form) to publish the photograph.
Fig 1 A photograph to illustrate the experimental setup.For condition AR and VR, the participant wore a head-mounted VR device. The participant was protected by an overhead safety harness system. Reflective markers and motion cameras were employed to collect gait biomechanics during the walking trials.
XRHealth, formerly known as VRHealth, announces the opening of reportedly the first virtual reality (VR) telehealth clinic. Patients can now obtain virtual reality treatment without leaving their homes.
VR telehealth clinicians providing care are currently certified in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Washington D.C., Delaware, California, New York, and North Carolina and will be expanding their presence in additional states in the coming months. The XRHealth telehealth services are covered by Medicare and most major insurance providers.
XRHealth is designed to use virtual reality to help rehabilitate patients via an immersive and engaging experience in the comfort of their own home. It combines therapeutic software with virtual reality technology solutions to treat a variety of health conditions. VR therapy transports patients to an environment where they can view and experience treatment as a fun activity, increasing patient participation in prescribed therapeutic treatments, according to XRHealth in a media release.
The XRHealth VR telehealth clinicians will provide an initial patient assessment, ship a VR headset to patients who do not currently have access to one, train them on how to use the technology, provide ongoing telehealth care and remote monitoring, using video call and VR technology, and manage the insurance billing for patients. As the patient is using the XRHealth VR technology for therapeutic treatment, the clinical staff can control the unit remotely and see exactly what the patient is viewing and adjust the settings and treatment in real-time, remotely.
After the initial training session, the patient can then use the headset independently while data from the therapy is stored and analyzed in real-time so that clinicians can monitor patient status regularly while in compliance with the HIPAA privacy rules. Once a week, a report will be generated to the payor/provider that referred the patient.
“XRHealth is modernizing and revolutionizing the way healthcare is operating today,” says Eran Orr, CEO of XRHealth, in the release. “We are utilizing the most advanced forms of technology like virtual reality to provide patients with optimal care in the comfort of their own homes while providing top-notch clinicians with ongoing status of their progress. Patients can now ‘go’ to a virtual clinic without the need to leave their homes at all.”
The XRHealth VR telehealth clinics will open on March 1, and patients can join by submitting a request to enroll for the XRHealth services on the company website.
Background: Stroke is a major cause of life-long disability in adults, associated with poor quality of life. Virtual reality (VR)-based therapy systems are known to be helpful in improving motor functions following stroke, but recent clinical findings have not been included in the previous publications of meta-analysis studies.
Aims: This meta-analysis was based on the available literature to evaluate the therapeutic potential of VR as compared to dose-matched conventional therapies (CT) in patients with stroke.
Methods: We retrieved relevant articles in EMBASE, MEDLINE, PubMed, and Web of Science published between 2010 and February 2019. Peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials that compared VR with CT were included.
Results: A total of 27 studies met the inclusion criteria. The analysis indicated that the VR group showed statistically significant improvement in the recovery of UL function (Fugl-Meyer Upper Extremity [FM-UE]: n = 20 studies, Mean Difference [MD] = 3.84, P = .01), activity (Box and Block Test [BBT]: n = 13, MD = 3.82, P = .04), and participation (Motor Activity Log [MAL]: n = 6, MD = 0.8, P = .0001) versus the control group.
Conclusion: VR appears to be a promising therapeutic technology for UL motor rehabilitation in patients with stroke.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability with over three-quarters of patients experiencing an upper limb impairment varying in severity. Early, intense, and frequent physical rehabilitation is important for quicker recovery of the upper limbs and the prevention of further deterioration of their upper limb impairment. Rehabilitation begins almost immediately at the hospital. Once released from the hospital it is intended that patients continue their rehabilitation program at home supported by a community stroke team. However, there are two main barriers to rehabilitation continuing effectively at this stage. The first is limited contact with a physiotherapist or occupational therapist to guide and support an intensive rehabilitation programme. The second is that conventional rehabilitation is tough to maintain immediately after stroke due to fatigue, lack of concentration, depression and other effects. Stroke patients can find exercises monotonous and tiring, and a lack of motivation can result in patients failing to engage fully with their treatment. Lack of participation in prescribed rehabilitation exercises may affect recovery or cause deterioration of mobility.
This thesis examines the hypothesis that upper limb stroke rehabilitation can be made more accessible and enjoyable through the use of modern commercial virtual reality (VR) hardware, with personalised models of user hand motion adapted to user capability over time, and VR games with tasks that utilise natural hand gestures as input controls to execute personalised physical rehabilitation exercises. To support the investigation of this hypothesis a novel adaptive, gamebased, virtual reality (VR) rehabilitation system has been designed and developed for self-managed rehabilitation. Hands are tracked using a Leap Motion Controller, with hand movements and gestures used as in input controller for VR tasks. A user-centred design methodology was adopted, and the final version of the system was evolved through several versions and iterative testing and feedback through trials with able-bodied testers, stroke survivor volunteers, and practising clinicians.
A key finding of the research was that an adapted form of Fitts’s law, that models difficulty of reaching and touching objects in 3D interaction spaces, could be used to profile movement capability for able-bodied people and stroke patients vii in upper arm VR stroke rehabilitation. It was also found that even when Fitts’s law was less effective, that the statistics of the regression quality were still informative in profiling users. Fitts law regression statistics along with information on task performance (such as percentage of hits) could be used to adapt task difficulty or advising rest. Further, it was found that multiple regression could provide better movement capability profiles with a modified form of Fitts law to account for varying degrees of difficulty due to the angles of motion in 3D space. In addition, a novel approach was developed which profiled sectors of the 3D VR interaction space separately, rather than treat movement through the whole space as being equally difficult. This approach accounts for some stroke patients having more difficulty moving in some directions than others, e.g. up and left. Results demonstrate that this has potential but may need to be investigated further with stroke patients and with larger numbers of people.
The VR system that utilised the movement capability model was evolved over time with a user-centred design methodology, with input from able-bodied people, stroke patients, and clinicians. A final longitudinal study investigated the suitability of three bespoke games, the usability of the system over a longer time, and the effectiveness of the movement profiler and adaptive system. Throughout this experiment, the system provided informative user movement profile variations that could identify unique movement behaviour traits in individuals. Results showed that user performance varied over time and the adaptive system proved effective in changing the difficulty of the tasks for individuals over multiple sessions. The VR rehabilitation games incorporated enhanced gameplay and feedback, and users expressed enjoyment with the interactive experience. Throughout all of the experiments, users enjoyed wearing a VR headset, preferring it over a standard PC monitor. Most users subjectively felt that they were more effective in completing tasks within VR, and results from experiments provided empirical evidence to support this view. Results within this thesis support the proposal that an appropriately designed, adaptive gamebased VR system can provide an accessible, personalised and enjoyable rehabilitation system that can motivate more regular rehabilitation participation and promote improved motor function.