Researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, University of Gothenburg and Sahlgrenska University Hospital has developed a new method for the treatment of phantom limb pain (PLP) after an amputation. The method is based on a unique combination of several technologies, and has been initially tested on a patient who has suffered from severe phantom limb pain for 48 years. A case study shows a drastic reduction of pain.
People who lose an arm or a leg often experience phantom sensations, as if the missing limb were still there. Seventy per cent of amputees experience pain in the amputated limb despite that it no longer exists.
Phantom limb pain can be a serious chronic and deteriorating condition that reduces the quality of the person´s life considerably. The exact cause of phantom limb pain and other phantom sensations is yet unknown.
Different treatment methods
Phantom limb pain is currently treated with several different methods. Examples include mirror therapy, different types of medication, acupuncture and hypnosis. In many cases, however, nothing helps.
This was the case for the patient that Chalmers researcher Max Ortiz Catalan selected for a case study of the new treatment method he has envisaged as a potential solution.
The patient lost his arm 48 years ago, and had since that time suffered from phantom pain varying from moderate to unbearable. He was never entirely free of pain.
Drastically reduced pain
The patient´s pain was drastically reduced after a period of treatment with the new method. He now has periods where he is entirely free of pain, and he is no longer awakened by intense periods of pain at night like he was previously.
The new method uses muscle signals from the patient´s arm stump to drive a system known as augmented reality. The electrical signals in the muscles are sensed by electrodes on the skin. The signals are then translated into arm movements by complex algorithms. The patient can see himself on a screen with a superimposed virtual arm, which is controlled using his own neural command in real time.
”There are several features of this system which combined might be the cause of pain relief” says Max Ortiz Catalan. “The motor areas in the brain needed for movement of the amputated arm are reactivated, and the patient obtains visual feedback that tricks the brain into believing there is an arm executing such motor commands. He experiences himself as a whole, with the amputated arm back in place.”
Differs from previous treatment
Modern therapies that use conventional mirrors or virtual reality are based on visual feedback via the opposite arm or leg. For this reason, people who have lost both arms or both legs cannot be helped using these methods.
”Our method differs from previous treatment because the control signals are retrieved from the arm stump, and thus the affected arm is in charge” says Max Ortiz Catalan. ”The promotion of motor execution and the vivid sensation of completion provided by augmented reality may be the reason for the patient improvement, while mirror therapy and medicaments did not help previously.”
A clinical study will now be conducted of the new treatment, which has been developed in a collaboration between Chalmers University of Technology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, the University of Gothenburg and Integrum.
Three Swedish hospitals and other European clinics will cooperate during the study which will target patients with conditions resembling the one in the case study – that is, people who suffer from phantom pain and who have not responded to other currently available treatments.
The research group has also developed a system that can be used at home. Patients will be able to apply this therapy on their own, once it has been approved. An extension of the treatment is that it can be used by other patient groups that need to rehabilitate their mobility, such as stroke victims or some patients with spinal cord injuries.
For more information, please contact:
Max Ortiz Catalan, Chalmers University of Technology, +46 708 46 10 65, firstname.lastname@example.org
The case study Treatment of phantom limb pain (PLP) based on augmented reality and gaming controlled by myoelectric pattern recognition: a case study of a chronic PLP patient was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience on 25 Feb, 2014.
Link to article: http://www.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnins.2014.00024/abstract
Watch more on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/neuromotus
Krister Svahn | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
An ounce of prevention: Research advances on 'scourge' of transplant wards
28.08.2015 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hypoallergenic parks: Coming soon?
27.08.2015 | American Society of Agronomy
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.
These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...
Bacteria do not cease to amaze us with their survival strategies. A research team from the University of Basel's Biozentrum has now discovered how bacteria enter a sleep mode using a so-called FIC toxin. In the current issue of “Cell Reports”, the scientists describe the mechanism of action and also explain why their discovery provides new insights into the evolution of pathogens.
For many poisons there are antidotes which neutralize their toxic effect. Toxin-antitoxin systems in bacteria work in a similar manner: As long as a cell...
It comes when called, bringing care utensils with it and recording how they are used: Fraunhofer IPA is developing an intelligent care cart that provides care staff with physical and informational support in their day-to-day work. The scientists at Fraunhofer IPA have now completed a first prototype. In doing so, they are continuing in their efforts to improve working conditions in the care sector and are developing solutions designed to address the challenges of demographic change.
Technical assistance systems can improve the difficult working conditions in residential nursing homes and hospitals by helping the staff in their work and...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
28.08.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
28.08.2015 | Health and Medicine
28.08.2015 | Life Sciences