Virtual reality utilization in stroke motor neurorehabilitation
Huber, Brandon Michael
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The burden of strokes on the healthcare system is tremendous. Strokes are one of the leading causes of long-term morbidity and mortality in the United States. In addition, strokes have a huge economic burden that lasts long after the actual stroke has occurred and has been medically stabilized. Thus, there is a desire to prevent strokes, as well as treat those who have experienced stroke. As technology has and continues to advance, there is the potential for the inclusion of new technologies to become integrated into the healthcare system. One such example is the inclusion of virtual reality in the rehabilitation of patients who have experienced a stroke. The current process of stroke rehabilitation focuses upon returning a patient as close as possible to their baseline level of function. This is generally through the use of repetitive activity to help the brain reroute neuro signaling pathways around damaged areas of the brain. With the inclusion of virtual reality into the process of rehab, it may be possible to better control the environment around a patient and create activities to help better simulate activities of daily life. Through the inclusion of current generation virtual reality into modern rehabilitation regiments it may be possible to better the outcomes of patients who have undergone a stroke with physical deficits. With the current burden of stroke on the medical system it is important to find ways to treat patients as efficiently as possible. By incorporating virtual reality into stroke rehabilitation, there may be better outcomes for patients which will allow them to live better and more capable lives. Much of the research that has been conducted on the matter has shown promise but has lacked large sample sizes and often uses outdated technology. More research must be conducted using more modern technologies and larger sample sizes to show a true benefit in its utilization. The proposed study in this thesis will be a two-armed randomized control trial to assess the efficacy of virtual reality in stroke rehabilitation. The Fugl-Meyer assessment of motor recovery after stroke will be used to evaluate the physical motor benefits of implementation of virtual reality in stroke rehab. The potential benefit of virtual reality into stroke rehab could profoundly impact how we take care of patients who have experienced a stroke. It can create an effective new means to help patients regain their pre-stroke level of function, thus better helping return individuals to their normal lives. This in turn can help decrease costs on the healthcare system by decreasing the number of people living with long term disability.