The new vision towards rehabilitation programmes focuses on how to keep disabled patients from becoming completely bedridden and on how to let elderly people remain independent by encouraging them to regain their physical strength. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation recently has decided to try and double its sales in medical equipment to 20 billion yen by the end of 2003. As a result, the company will concentrate its efforts on the market for home rehabilitation devices. To this purpose, the Mitsubishi developers have designed a therapeutic exercise system, called StrengthErgo, which consists of bicycle training for patients with functional impairment of the legs. Video software stimulates the patient by offering him a beautiful virtual scenery to derive deeper enjoyment from his bicycle ride.
Dr. Sumio Yamada, who is Clerk Examiner in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at St. Marianna University School of Medicine in the city of Kawasaki, has supported the Mitsubishi research team with useful clinical advice. StrengthErgo therefore has been equipped with a double crankshaft in order to independently measure the differences in force, which are exercised by the left and the right leg. Indeed, patients suffering from partial paralysis after a stroke, show a varying strength in both limbs which imposes the need to install separate load values for the left and right pedals. In addition, each pedal is provided with an assist motor to help patients who are paralyzed down one side only or people with damage to the spinal cord. The mechanical aid can also be used if the patient gets tired during training.
The system allows to measure the muscle strength if placed into isokinetic mode, which means that the patient has to perform the exercise at the same and constant speed. The therapist is able to assess the executed load torque whenever the patient's foot presses down on the pedal. If the features of the StrengthErgo system are combined in a intelligent way, the rehabilitation programme can be perfectly adapted to the specific needs of the individual patient. It is equally possible to accomodate the exercise position of the training person in accordance with his disability. Both the revolving saddle and the pedal height adjustment mechanism allow the patient to easily get on and off the training device. In addition, the patient can choose whether to lie face up or to be normally seated on the StrengthErgo bicycle.
The video software answers two major purposes. The exercises produce a lot more fun, if the patient simultaneously can enjoy the enticing variety in the landscape and the continuous succession of the seasons. While bicycling through virtual streets, mountains, and forests, the patient is invited to relax and reach a high degree of inner fulfilment. Moreover, the software regulates the cycling pace and the amount of exercise in accordance with the varying factors of speed, gradient and distance. In this way, the patient is able to set his personal goals by adapting the training programme at any given moment to his own physical strength and condition. StrengthErgo is also suitable for persons with diabetes, obesity, respiratory and cirulatory problems, inflamed joints, or who are suffering from Parkinson's disease. Soon, the system will be completed with vital sign monitors, such as blood pressure readings and electrocardiograms.