Jan 18, 2024 12:10 PM By Jon Stojan
With more people suffering from neurological conditions such as stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS) each year, awareness of these conditions and how to treat or manage them has become more important. According to the World Health Organization, the lifetime risk of developing a stroke has risen by 50% over the past 17 years, with around one in every four people expected to suffer a stroke in their lifetime. Meanwhile, close to 3 million people have MS worldwide.
Stroke and MS patients are often left with a decreased quality of life, due to limited movement and muscle spasticity, particularly in their limbs. Most of the medications given to patients are unable to restore affected bodily functions. Instead, these can only prevent the patient’s condition from deteriorating or, in the case of MS, slow down the patient’s decline. Oral antispastic medications often provide limited effects and may induce side effects such as weakness, confusion and dizziness. For some patients, small doses of botulinum toxin (botox) are injected into the muscles to relieve the spasticity. This treatment is effective for only around 12 weeks, before it needs to be repeated, which can be both costly and risky.
Unlike most medications for stroke and MS on the market, recoveriX, a brain-computer interface neurorehabilitation treatment, has been shown to aid in the rehabilitation of stroke and multiple sclerosis patients. Developed by Austria-based company g.tec medical engineering, recoveriX electrically stimulates patients’ limbs, helping them regain function after being impaired by neurological conditions. The patient sits in front of a computer unit while wearing an EEG headset that reads the patient’s brainwaves. The monitor serves as a movement guide for their limbs and the electrodes connected to their limbs provide electrical stimulation to muscles, causing dorsiflexion of the joints. Each therapy session lasts for around an hour, with one recoveriX treatment block consisting of 25 sessions, ideally three times a week.
Repeated use of recoveriX has been shown to help patients recover the use of their limbs, with reduced spasticity and improved motor skills. For example, this can be demonstrated by better performance in the nine-hole peg test, a measure of fine manual dexterity. Patients have also shown better concentration, physical performance, cognition, memory and bladder control. These contribute to improved quality of life and allow patients to do most of the activities they couldn’t after developing stroke or MS.
According to g.tec co-founder and CEO, Dr. Christoph Guger, recoveriX, which relies on visual and electro-muscular stimulation has multiple positive effects without any significant negative side effects. He adds that looking at clinical studies for medication, there is a need for thousands of patients to prove that the medication has a certain effect. Because the clinical trial involves testing on a large number of people, this doesn’t mean that the medication is ideal for an individual patient.
Furthermore, for multiple sclerosis, there are around 20 different medications that can be used, depending on the patient and the type of MS. After one year of taking a certain medication, the patient is evaluated whether it is effective. If the medication isn’t the right one for the patient, there is a chance that it could just make things worse, Guger says.
Despite the huge positive impact of new, technology-enabled treatments such as recoveriX, Guger notes that doctors can sometimes be hesitant to prescribe them. Some insurance companies, as well, have yet to cover these treatments. According to Guger, this is because many physicians were trained solely on medication and recoveriX did not yet exist when they were in medical school. However, with time, he believes that more medical professionals will see the benefits of recoveriX and combine it with their medication and treatment regimens. Additionally, insurance companies will begin covering recoveriX sessions once they see the data that it works and results in lower insurance payout costs.
Today, recoveriX is available in multiple countries across Europe, Asia-Pacific, North America and Africa and g.tec uses a unique franchise system to enable the rapid spread of the technology. Guger is fighting to ensure that more people suffering from stroke, MS and other neurological conditions will be able to access recoveriX and see for themselves its positive effects, as well as spread the word to other people who need it.