An innovative device worn on the throat offers exciting possibilities in the rehabilitation of stroke patients. The device, developed in the lab of Northwestern University professor John A. Rogers in conjunction with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, allows patients to be monitored both while they are hospitalized and after they go home.
The device’s position on the throat’s suprasternal notch gives physicians data on key areas affected by strokes, such as speech patterns and swallowing ability. It can also help in the diagnosis and treatment of aphasia, a communication disorder that can occur after a stroke.
The device continuously and wirelessly transmits data to a Bluetooth-enabled system such as a smartphone. The stretchable sensor is thin, soft and flexible, so it can be attached to the skin comfortably and can be hidden beneath collared shirts.
“The sensor allows us to objectively and quickly measure speaking time during therapy or when the patient is at home or in the community,” says Leora Cherney, PhD, scientific chair of the Think + Speak Lab of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. “It allows us to monitor patients from a distance, and it provides almost instantaneous feedback to both the patient and clinician.”
The feedback allows clinicians to see how their patients are functioning in the real world — when gains tend to drop off — and helps patients track their progress toward their goals.
The device may have other applications, too. Rogers says it’s being studied for sleep apnea, and Cherney notes that the sensor may be appropriate for patients with other conditions associated with communication problems such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.