The Future of Stroke Rehabilitation

The Future of Stroke RehabilitationABC
When Shawn Doyle suffered a stroke six years ago at age 46, it left him with impaired speech and paralysis of his right side.

When Shawn Doyle suffered a stroke six years ago at age 46, it left him with impaired speech and paralysis of his right side.

But thanks to a cutting edge technique for stroke patients, Shawn, who was an active, driven vice president of sales prior to the stroke, now is able to say his daughter's name correctly for the first time in years.

"Our daughter's name is Cristin and after the stroke [...] he would always say, 'Crispin,'" said Shawn's wife, Susan Doyle. "He couldn't say the 'T.'"

VIDEO: A medical device offers new hope for patients recovering from strokes.Play

Though Shawn still struggles with his speech and learning to get the words out properly has been difficult, he has learned to pronounce certain sounds once again thanks to a device called an electromagnetic articulograph.

How It Works

The electromagnetic articulograph works by placing a helmet on a patient's head. It creates a magnetic field, which along with sensors on the tongue, allows the patient to see his or her own tongue movements on a computer screen in real time.

Patients are able to adjust their movements until they make the correct sounds. On the screen, X marks the spot where the tongue must hit to attain the right pronunciation.

"We can have him hit the bull's-eye in the exact place of articulation in his mouth that he is supposed to hit to make the sound correctly," said Dr. William Katz of the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders.

So far, the device has only been tested on a handful of patients.

But even in these early stages of research, it has given the Doyle family an incredible gift.

"After working on this he could say 'Cristin' again. And I know that's itty bitty, but it's a big deal," Susan said. "We have come a long, long way."

Battling Back From a Stroke

Like Shawn, Joe Breiner understands all too well the difficulty of recovering from a stroke. He was stricken when he was just 6-years- old.

The stroke left the muscles in his right arm tightly curled up and awkwardly sticking out to the side, which made the arm unusable.

He thought he was beyond help until he met Dr. John McGuire of Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin.

"We didn't have this when Joe had his stroke. If we were able to do this stuff when he had his stroke, I bet he'd be doing a lot more than he is doing now," he said.

Joe's problem was twofold, so the solution was twofold as well. First, Botox was injected every three months deep into the muscle tissue in his legs and arm in order to relax the muscles.

Then a hand rehabilitation system called the Bioness H200 is used. The device, which was approved for use in April 2004, electrically stimulates the muscles of the hand, so it is retrained to open and close.

More than 1,000 patients are currently using the H200 at home, with hundreds more using it as part of their therapy in 354 facilities across the country.

The results have been truly amazing, especially to Joe's children.

He can now, "give them hugs, play games with them easier than it has been in the past," he said.

And his wife said the therapy has improved the family's life.

"It's strengthened us. It's strengthened our family," Maureen Breiner said. "Our children, well he can swing them up with both hands and things like that."

It's telling especially since just a few years ago, Joe couldn't even open his hand. Now he can not only open his hand, but he has picked up a new hobby — golf.

Joe said doctors have told him, "The sky is the limit."

"We are very, very hopeful," he said.

For more information on the Bioness H200, click here.

For more information on The Callier Center for Communication Disorders, click here.