Health Watch - Medicine and Technology: Mechanical Arm

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This week on Health Watch, we’ve been talking about the impact of technology on medicine. Technology is particularly beneficial in helping people restore lost functions. Physical therapists at UT Southwestern Medical Center are among those testing a new way to help people recovering from strokes or severe brain injuries re-learn fine motor skills.

The device is a mechanical arm that supports the weight of the arm to allow more movement while the patient carries out virtual tasks in a video-game-like environment. Dr. Patricia Smith, a UT Southwestern physical therapist, says the mechanical arm allows patients to do more repetitions of movements in therapy sessions for faster recovery. Patients do tasks that use different muscle groups and that relate to real-world tasks, such as cleaning the stove or washing a window. The patient gradually takes on more weight, and a computer tracks progress and achievement over time. Repeating the tasks helps the brain reorganize itself after being damaged.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in rehabilitation.


March 2009

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