Date: 12/9/2008

New Technology at Community Hospital for Prosthetics offers hope for Lifeless Limbs

Working with Occupational Therapist Michelle Walker on fine motor skills at Community Hospital, Sgt. Shannon McAllister demonstrates how he can open his fingers while wearing a custom-fit red, white and blue neuromuscular sleeve.

Patients faced with neurological conditions that stem from stroke, head injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or chronic pain are benefiting from new technology that may help them overcome physical challenges. Community Hospital in Munster is the only hospital in Northwest Indiana to offer Wearable Therapy™ and NeuroProsthetic™ Systems that help replace lost neurological function and maximize muscle activity.

A Wearable Therapy Muscle Stimulation System was worn by the late actor Christopher Reeve to help restore muscle and prevent atrophy in his legs that accompanied his spinal cord injury. Now the same Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) technology that helped Christopher Reeve regain muscle and motion in his legs is now helping Community Hospital patients with Central Nervous System (CNS) conditions use limbs — legs, arms, fingers, toes — that were once limp and lifeless.

This 21st century technology as applied to orthotics and prosthetics from Bioflex Electromedicine, Inc. is yet another example of our commitment to bring the latest advances in medicine to our healthcare system, said John Gorski, Senior Vice President of Hospital Operations for the Community Healthcare System, which includes Community Hospital in Munster; St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago; and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.

Patients with CNS conditions can experience weakness of muscle, diminished ability to function, muscle spasticity or contracture, and require intense rehabilitation to change range of motion. Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is a technology that produces purposeful muscle movement in patterns that can rebuild muscle mass and produce many other physiological benefits. It can also be used to create real-time arm, leg or trunk movement that is close to normal. Electrical stimulation of nerves and muscles also can help to modulate pain without medication.

“The availability of the new Wearable Therapy™ NeuroProsthesis™ systems further strengthens our neurological treatment capabilities here at Community Hospital,” said Donald Fesko, Administrator of Community Hospital. “Community Hospital is one of the few places in America where this enhanced rehabilitation is being used, giving our residents access to technology that may provide a higher quality of life.”

A Bioflex Wearable Therapy System enables patients to use neuromuscular stimulation over long periods of time to maximize their results. Each system is customized in terms of both fit and electrode placement. It is designed to match each individual and can be worn on the body in a variety of ways, depending upon the needs of the patient. The system can be worn under clothing throughout the day and hidden from view, but does not hinder the patient from moving, working or sleeping.

The Bioflex UE NeuroProsthetic Sleeve, for example, is a custom-fit, neuromuscular sleeve that stimulates multiple muscle groups to open the fingers - artificially enabling it to reach and grasp objects. The sleeve operates by using electrodes and wires connected to a control pack. A switch mounted on the waist when pushed activates the fingers’ opening.

Community Hospital has teamed up with the Center for Orthotic & Prosthetic Excellence (COPE) to provide custom electrical stimulation systems. When combined with occupational therapy, Bioflex can maximize rehabilitation for patients and help improve their quality of life. Healthcare professionals — Brian Steinberg, CO, LO and Philip Muccio, CPO, LPO of COPE and Michelle Walker, OTR, occupational therapist on staff at Community Hospital in Munster have been working with patients on both fitting the device and also developing a therapy program that meets their needs.

First, the occupational therapist assesses the patient to determine whether the wearable therapy system is a viable option. If it is determined they are a good candidate, the therapist arranges for a “stim” or electrical stimulation device to further assess a “trial run” response.

After a successful trial period, Steinberg sizes up the patient and tests for the exact spots of electrode placement. When a Bioflex UE NeuroProsthetic Sleeve is placed on the arm and chest, the electrodes automatically align over muscle groups and stay properly fixed during the day. The Sleeve is made without lead wires so the arm is free to move. The occupational therapist then works with Steinberg to make sure the Sleeve is fine tuned and ready.

The biggest benefit is that functionally, the technology allows the patient to use and strengthen their muscles, effectively gaining mobility where it was once limited or there was none, said Walker. After everyday tasks with the NeuroProsthesis™ become routine and are completed with ease of motion, most patients do not need further therapy.