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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Research Institute fosters innovation in the next generation

February 02, 2021

Madonna’s Institute for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering solves patients’ and clinicians’ rehabilitation challenges by developing technological solutions. To solve one of these problems, Institute researchers expanded the ability of the Madonna ICARE by SportsArt to capture information that will guide use of the technology for individuals focusing on recovering arm function. The ICARE is a patented, intelligently controlled motor-assisted elliptical developed through a grant provided by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Extensive research has shown the benefits of the ICARE on helping individuals relearn how to walk and improve fitness. However, until recently, little research has been done on how the ICARE could address therapeutic rehabilitation of the arms. 

Alex Deghand, a student physical therapist completing her doctorate from the University of Kansas Medical Center, conducted a collaborative research and development project focused on increasing understanding of how adaptive ICARE handles can aid in regaining arm movement and strength.

“My research focused on further modifying the adapted handles so that forces exerted can be simultaneously measured during use,” Alex said. “Measurement of the forces and torque will provide researchers with a more complete picture of how those with various impairments interact with the adaptive handles.”

Alex worked with Arash Gonabadi, assistant research director for the Institute’s Rehabilitation Engineering Center, to further modify the ICARE’s adaptive handles and integrate sensors to measure the force and torque applied by an ICARE user. 

By using the Institute’s in-house 3D printer—funded by generous Madonna donors—Alex was able to custom print the key components for the adaptive handles that would encase the specialized sensors. The handles were modified to allow greater customization for individuals with weakness and movement restrictions.

“While the initial ICARE design was focused on providing a comprehensive tool for improving walking, fitness and balance following serious injuries and illnesses, we’ve since heard requests for greater programming that could simultaneously address arm rehabilitation,” Dr. Judy Burnfield, Madonna’s Institute director shared. “Alex’s and Arash’s work will help the team gather information critical for developing data-driven arm rehabilitation protocols.”

Alex’s work is expected to provide a critical foundation for arm rehabilitation care and research advancements for a wide range of individuals including those recovering from breast cancer, stroke, spinal cord injury and brain injury.