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US stroke robot pioneer visits patients and staff at North East hospital

Wednesday, 10 June, 2015
US stroke robot pioneer visits patients and staff at North East hospital

A leading scientist from Massachusetts in the USA who has pioneered the stroke robot technology now at the heart of a major national clinical trial in the NHS*, has visited staff and patients at North Tyneside General Hospital today. 

Dr Hermano Igo Krebs, Principal Research Scientist and Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA, has led the development of stroke rehabilitation robots over many years and is widely recognised by peers around the world for his leading edge research into rehabilitative robotics.

Just over a year ago, North Tyneside General Hospital became the first in England to house two of his ‘rehabilitation robots’ which are now being used as part of clinical trials using robot assisted training to help NHS stroke patients regain movement in their affected arm.  Now, the hospital is leading clinical trials in the North East with Newcastle University, working with stroke patients from across Tyne and Wear.

During his visit to North Tyneside General Hospital, Dr Krebs met public governors of the trust, staff from the hospital’s dedicated stroke unit, as well as patients who have been cared for by the expert stroke team in North Tyneside.

He was also joined by Dr Helen Rodgers, Professor of Stroke Care at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University and Consultant Stroke Physician at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who is leading the UK research.

Commenting on his visit, Dr Krebs said: “It is fantastic to visit the UK and the North East of England in particular, where great things are happening with stroke research using robotic rehabilitation.

“The technology we have developed at MIT is already helping many stroke patients and people with other neurological conditions in the US on their road to recovery and we hope to see similar results here in the UK over the next five years thanks to the NHS research now taking place. 

“Using robotic technology, our aim is to give clinicians the tools they need to facilitate the best possible functional recovery for their patients and hopefully regain as much movement as possible in their arm.  Not only can we better understand what’s going on inside the brain, but it also gives us a much better source of reliable data which we can then use to further refine and customise robotic therapy to suit individual patient needs.”

Dr Krebs is in the North East as part of a week-long visit  to the region being hosted by Newcastle University and was a keynote speaker at The Society for Research in Rehabilitation’s (SRR) annual summer conference – Rehabilitation in the 21st Century: Using Robots & Computers to Promote Recovery’ – held at St James Park in Newcastle yesterday.

Dr Helen Rodgers, Professor of Stroke Care at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University and Consultant Stroke Physician at North Tyneside General Hospital, said:  “We are delighted to welcome Igo to the North East to see first-hand the stroke research taking place using his very own rehabilitative robot technology. 

“Since launching our UK clinical trials just over a year ago we have recruited almost 200 patients to take part in the robot research and are well on track to meet our target of working with 700 patients over the course of the research programme.

“We have been working closely with colleagues in Massachusetts over many years and if the UK research is shown to be effective, it has the potential to revolutionise how we provide rehabilitation in the NHS for people who have suffered a stroke.”

Each year 110,000 people in the UK have a stroke and many have long-term problems moving or feeling their affected arm.  Rehabilitation with physiotherapy and occupational therapy starting as soon as possible after a stroke is currently the best way to maximise the amount of movement people eventually regain. 

A clinical trial of robot assisted training in the USA has shown that this approach to rehabilitation may improve upper limb recovery for some stroke patients. Now, the NHS is conducting a much larger study to see if robot assisted training using Dr Kreb’s technology leads to improved clinical outcomes for patients and more efficient use of valuable NHS resources. 

Pictured are left to right: Dr Hermano Igo Krebs, Dr Helen Rodgers, patient Lesley Rodgers who has benefited from the stroke robot technology and Helen Bosomworth, project manager for the study.