Salford shortlisted for healthcare technology award

Thursday 22 November 2012
The Institution of Engineering and Technology has shortlisted a research team involving the University of Salford for an award based on its development of an electrical muscle stimulator to improve the mobility of partially paralysed patients.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Salford have been shortlisted in the healthcare technologies category of the Innovation Awards for ‘ShefStim’ - a unique, automated, multi-channel array stimulator for improving the gait of patients with foot-drop.

Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is commonly used to correct foot-drop - an inability to lift the foot which affects many patients with conditions such as stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Foot-drop causes walking problems which include tripping, falling and increased fatigue. While FES is successful for many patients, a significant number have difficulties finding the electrode positions required to achieve the desired foot movement when they put the system on each day.

ShefStim is a novel solution to this problem. It is able to control both the position and strength of the stimulation applied using an array of 64 small electrodes which are operated together in groups. This avoids the need to physically move an electrode.

Simultaneously a foot sensor feeds back the resulting foot movement while an algorithm has been developed which allows ShefStim to select the optimum position for stimulation. Once the automatic set-up process is complete, stimulation is synchronised with foot movement to correct the patient’s foot-drop while they are walking.

The system has been CE marked (indicating compliance with European legislation) and is currently under evaluation by a leading UK manufacturer.

Dr Laurence Kenney of the School of Health Sciences said: “Making the shortlist for this award recognises the truly innovative research being carried out at Salford and other universities to improve the quality of people’s lives.”

The Institution of Engineering and Technology Innovation Awards will be held tonight (22 November) at The Brewery in London.

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