1) Introduction to mechatronics:
Mechatronics is a technology that connects many systems together such as, electrical, mechanical and computing engineering, mechatronics is one of the fastest growing technologies in the world, its vast improvement in popularity and praise is due to its capability of being used in various different domains and fields. The medical field is not excluded from the list.
2.1) What is Rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation refers to the improvement of a person’s health condition through the training, exercise and physical therapies after a period of illness, addiction, etc. The origin of this term dates back to the medieval ages. It was first introduced in the 16th century in northern Italy.
2.2) Types of Rehabilitation:
Rehabilitation is a broad category that can be classified into three major classes. These Classes are:
- Occupational Therapy:
Occupational Therapy is a therapy that helps and rehabilitates those who suffer from rotator cuff injuries, hand and wrist fractures, stroke, arthritis, and traumatic brain injury. Those who suffer from these conditions may not be able to perform daily activities such as such as bathing, dressing, self-feeding, cooking etc. Occupational therapists work in a variety of facilities, such as:
– rehabilitation centers
– mental health facilities
– private practices
– children’s clinics
– nursing homes
- Speech Therapy:
Those who suffer from speech and/or swallowing problems, definitely need speech therapy in order to help them feed themselves independently without choking as well as to restore their speech functions. Speech disorders may include:
Articulation disorders: which is the difficulty in producing sounds in syllables or saying words incorrectly.
Fluency disorders: this term also refers to “shuttering”, in which the normal flow of speech by a person is interrupted by abnormal stoppages.
Resonance or voice disorders: problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice that distract listeners from what’s being said.
This type of rehabilitation deals with movement dysfunctions that are caused neurological disorders and muscle injuries. Muscle injuries can be the result of accidents or other reasons that involve the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. On the other hand, Neurological disorders involve the nervous system and may cause partial paralysis of the body. Examples of these disorders are the stroke, Alzheimer, cerebral palsy, headaches and many others.
3) Rehabilitation Robotics:
3.1) Rehabilitation Robotics in Medical Engineering:
There is no doubt that the demand for caregivers and rehabilitation services and centers are growing each day, this extreme growth can be explained by the aging population of the world, in the US alone it is expected that the contingent of seniors to double from 13,3% by the year of 2050. Obviously with such growth comes an increase in age-related diseases and maladies such as strokes and ALZHEIMER. This Situation caused for the birth of Rehabilitation robotics as a branch of medical engineering. Rehabilitation robotics is a relatively new field of research that is basically dedicated to the understanding and augmenting of rehabilitation through the application of robotic and mechatronic devices. It covers such areas as the development of robotic devices that support different functions of a sensorimotor.
3.2) Types of Rehabilitation Robots:
Rehabilitation Robots, also known as RRs, can be classified into two types. The first type is an assistive robot that substitutes for lost limb movements, the second type is a therapy robot that is also known as the rehabilitator.
- Assistive Robot:
Assistive robots are used in various facilities such as hospitals, physical therapy centers, schools and eventually homes. As stated above, Assistive Robot is responsible for the rehabilitation of Muscle related movements. The main application of an Assistive Robot is helping patients through providing them with monitoring, encouragement, and reminders. The robot monitors the patient’s arm activity and reminds the patient to follow a rehabilitation program. It relies heavily on physical interaction in order to achieve the therapeutic goal. Examples of Assistive Robots:
- wheelchair robots (such as MANUS)
- companion robots
- manipulator arms for the physically disabled
- educational robots
Orthoses are external devices that are designed and can be attached to the neck, upper limb, trunk, and lower limb they are designed to guide motions, bear weight, align body structures, protect joints, or even correct deformities. What makes orthoses special and unique is the fact that they are designed to work in cooperation with the intact body, and can control or assist movement. Gait Orthotics, on the other hand, their objective is for walking purposes and also to establish a stable weight bearing, a control of the speed and direction of limb motions, and finally, a reduction in the energy required to ambulate. Gait Orthotics were first introduced in the 1960’s and they are still being in development until this day.
- Therapy Robot:
Recent research and studies in the neuroscience field have shown that the brain and spinal cord retain a remarkable ability to adapt, even after an injury, through the use of practiced movements. Based on that fact scientist and engineers invested considerable time and effort developing the therapy robots. Rehabilitators are basically machines or tools for rehabilitation purposes. They allow patients to perform practice movements as part of their rehabilitation program.
3.3) Limitations and Challenges:
Rehabilitation Robots (RR) are most defiantly a revolutionary technology however they are not immune to having cons and drawbacks. RR’s are highly expensive which basically restricts their availability not to mention their limitation in functionality. On top of that, the simple act of a robot to pick up a bottle of water or any other object to the mouth is time-consuming.
According to recent studies over the next ten years, the expectation of technology to meet the demands of rehabilitation and personal care will grow as the contingent of seniors grows with it, so even though that Rehabilitation robots have their own problems and challenges this won’t matter as much because massive investing and studies will lead to the RRs to meet real needs.