THE Regional Hospital uses virtual reality to treat stroke patients in Spain’s Malaga
The Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Unit of the Regional Hospital in Malaga has launched a pilot programme that uses virtual neuro-rehabilitation to treat patients that have suffered a stroke. The study uses virtual reality techniques in addition to the traditional physical, occupational and speech and language therapies with the aim of improving their neurological rehabilitation, and more than a dozen patients have already seen striking results.
The therapy works by simulating interactive scenarios from everyday life, such as shopping in a supermarket or cooking. In a dedicated sensory room, the scenarios are projected on to a large screen and patients can interact with the help of motion sensors. Experts claim that the exercise improves mobility as it doesn’t require the use of special glasses or gloves.
Rehabilitation specialist Lorena Aguilar told Spanish daily Malagahoy that “the use of virtual reality as a therapeutic tool in stroke can bring an extra benefit to conventional therapy”. It is a safe, attractive and patient-centred tool. It allows adapting the intensity of the sessions according to their functional level and capacity, achieving greater motivation when carrying out their therapies and achieving better functional results,” she said, adding that the patients included in the study receive 12 virtual reality sessions, three a week.
The Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Unit cares for patients with acquired brain damage from various causes (head injuries, tumours, etc.), with stroke being the most frequent cause of brain damage. In total, the hospital sees around 50 patients with neuro-motor impairment every year.
“The first six months after a stroke are essential in recovery,” Ms Aguilar said, “so it is important that they receive a comprehensive and intensive rehabilitation treatment at this stage. This virtual reality system can promote recovery because it is a form of active rehabilitation, which adapts to the functional situation of the patient and, when dealing with games, motivation is greater, thus favouring adherence to treatment.”