Mechanical glove to aid stroke victims

By Siobhan Leathley

Victoria University student Abigail Arulandu, mechanical glove inventor. Photo / Supplied
Victoria University student Abigail Arulandu, mechanical glove inventor. Photo / Supplied

A Victoria University student has created a rehabilitation device to help stroke patients relearn how to use their hands.

A stroke victim's hand can form a tight fist, which is difficult to unclench and use.

The "mechanical glove" is placed over the hand and guides the patient in unclenching their fist and relearning hand movements.

The engineering masters student and creator, Abigail Arulandu, said repeating actions helped the brain relearn them.

"After a while the hand will be able to open and close on its own."

The device contains sensors measuring the force exerted, and sends this data to a computer for a physiotherapist to analyse.

She said that in most cases people left hospital once they are able to walk, so there was little emphasis on relearning hand movements.

To make it more enjoyable, she has incorporated a simple computer game into the therapy whereby patients clasp then release a virtual ball and drop it into a basket.

Arulandu said this helped users challenge themselves, and made rehabilitation more enjoyable.

"I want to give back independence to people, so they can do the same things they did before their stroke."

Arulandu approached stroke-rehabilitation device manufacturer Im-Able about linking the device to its Able-X computer games. She said her device would connect with Im-Able's existing games.

The company was keen to do this, because there were no devices for patients post-stroke.

Im-Able chief executive Sunil Vather said Arulandu's product also complemented the company's existing shoulder and arm rehabilitation devices.

"Her product is efficient, useful and can be used at home."

Vather said being able to use products at home meant patients did not have to visit specialists. This could be difficult if they were unable to drive and found it too difficult to take public transport.

Arulandu began working on it after she was inspired by a colleague while working for research company Industrial Research in Christchurch.

"I started researching it and it built itself up."

She has spent the past two years researching and developing the glove. Using the university's resources and only having to pay for prototype materials meant she kept costs to a minimum.

The university's engineering and computing department professors, Dr Will Browne and Dr Chris Hollitt, helped Arulandu.

She said another student would take over and continue working on her project. It is normal for students to pass on research projects once they graduate.

Arulandu already has a job lined up as a product development graduate for medical device company Fisher & Paykel Health when she graduates at the end of the year.

She hopes a workable prototype of the glove will be ready by the end of next year.


How it works

*The device uses sensors to measure the degree of force being exerted by the patient.

*The sensors then send this data to a computer for a physiotherapist to analyse.

- APNZ

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