The first Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment to be used by the U.S. military was accepted by Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Oct. 10. It will soon be delivered to Brooke Army Medical Center to help rehabilitate servicemembers with lower extremity injuries.
“This is a great day for the Army and the whole medical community,” said Col. John Collins, LRMC chief of staff. “It’s a fascinating piece of equipment. Every day we see patients who can use this technology. This is a great step forward in the care of our wounded warriors.”
The million-dollar Dutch-made technology began in 1997 and is sort of a virtual reality ride without the goggles. It features a computer-controlled moving platform that can simulate a wide variety of conditions like skiing, standing in a canoe and reacting
to changing ground positions. This motion therapy isolates muscle groups and helps develop proper muscle recruitment strategies to improve balance and stability. A patient with a severe trauma to his foot can benefit from CAREN’s capabilities because it can help him get past the anticipation of pain, which makes the patient hesitant to place all of his weight on the injured leg.
With CAREN, a situation can be created where the platform is raised slightly higher than the patient expects so he will step down sooner and apply more pressure on the injured leg. In this way, the rehabilitation time, in some cases, can be drastically shortened.
“This system has a number of applications to maximize the return to function of injured servicemembers and may speed their performance, reconditioning and progression,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Boyea, LRMC chief of physical therapy. “The system benefits and works several body systems, especially balance and reactionary control.”
One of CAREN’s biggest advantages is its capability to give feedback on a patient’s motion in real-time. This feedback cannot be reached using conventional therapeutic sessions, because a therapist is not fast enough to spot, register and give feedback to the patient.
“It’s important for the patient to receive feedback as to how their body is moving,” said Colonel Boyea. “If someone has an injury that changes the way he walks, the compensations begin to feel natural and he won’t even know he is doing it. If he can see what he is doing and be aware of his inefficient motion, then a correction can be made during the therapeutic session.”
“I think this is one-of-a-kind, cutting edge technology,” said Michael Westermann, chief executive officer of motion technology. “It is the best of what is available in the moment.”