Pioneering research trial begins to help stroke recovery
04 June 2014
Rehabilitation staff at Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have launched a pioneering research trial aimed at helping those paralysed by stroke.
Thanks to a £10,000 grant from the Department of Health the
rehab team will study the effects of "mirror imaging" on patients
where one arm is completely paralysed as a result of the
Patients taking part in the trial will be encouraged to
undertake daily therapy using a mirror box which encourages their
paralysed arm to mimic the movement in their healthy limb.
Joanne Lay, clinical inpatient rehabilitation lead explains:
"The use of mirror imaging as therapy has been used extensively for
supporting the rehabilitation of amputees but until now no-one has
explored its potential in helping stroke patients regain
"It is a simple therapy but if it works for our patients it
could really have a dramatic impact of their level of recovery.
This is very exciting and could ultimately benefit patients
The mirror box works by inserting the impaired arm into the box
while viewing the working arm on the external mirror.
When the working arm is moved the brain is "tricked" into
thinking it is the paralysed arm and thus helps rebuild
connections in the brain damaged by the stroke.
The trial will test two groups of patients over a six week
period. The first group will use the mirror box for three weeks
with standard upper limb followed by a three week period of
The second group will receive standard physiotherapy for three
weeks and then the groups will switch to standard physiotherapy
with the mirror box for a further three weeks.
At the beginning, after three weeks and at the end of the
treatment the participants will undergo tests, including an
MRI to see how the brain has reacted and then again after three
weeks of inactivity.
Joanne and colleague Aarti Sharma, a senior physiotherapist will
work with patients on the hospital's award winning stroke unit who
agree to be part of the trial.
Patients will be encouraged to a minimum of 15mins with the box
three times a day.
Joanne says: "The great thing about this therapy is that it is
non-invasive and entirely led by the patient. While we can offer a
range of rehabilitative treatments for those who have limited
movement, for those who have suffered complete paralysis in one arm
there is very little we can currently do. We hope this research
will change that."
Once the results of the six week trial are collated, the team
will then look to host a national research project with other
stroke units to fully test the therapy. If shown to be effective,
this therapy could end up as a recommended treatment in all parts
of the world.
Joanne adds: "It's tremendously exciting that our patients here
in Southend could eventually influence and revolutionise the future
care of stroke."