When a stroke occurs, the area of the brain that generates signals for movement, swallowing, speech and other fundamental tasks, could sustain damage. This damage can result in an interruption of intended signals. The result for many individuals is that the desired function does not occur and an undesired function, such as spasticity, does.
Using electricity to stimulate and control a part of the body is known as Functional Electrical Stimulation or FES. It is also called Functional Neural Stimulation or FNS.The FES research for the rehabilitation of stroke survivors can be segmented into two primary categories: temporary therapies to improve recovery and replacing functions that cannot be recovered.
Led by committed clinicians and scientists, the Stroke Recovery Program focuses on applying both FES interventions and traditional treatments to produce the greatest functional gains.
The programs of the Cleveland FES Center illustrate the breadth and depth of the technology being used to make a difference in the everyday life of people with disabilities.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke or brain attack occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or artery, or when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When a brain attack occurs, it kills brain cells in the immediate area. These cells usually die within minutes to a few hours after the stroke starts.
When brain cells die, they release chemicals that set off a chain reaction called the “ischemic cascade.” This chain reaction endangers brain cells in a larger, surrounding area of brain tissue for which the blood supply is compromised but not completely cut off. Without prompt medical treatment this larger area of brain cells, called the penumbra, will also die. Given the rapid pace of the ischemic cascade, the “window of opportunity” for interventional treatment is about six hours. Beyond this window, reestablishment of blood flow and administration of neuroprotective agents may fail to help and can potentially cause further damage.
When brain cells die, control of abilities which were once controlled by the brain are lost. This includes functions such as speech, movement, and memory. The specific abilities lost or affected depend on the severity and location of the stroke. For example, someone who has a small stroke may experience only minor effects such as weakness of an arm or leg. On the other hand, someone who has a larger stroke may be left paralyzed on one side or lose his/her ability to express and process language. Some people recover completely from less serious strokes, while other individuals lose their lives to very severe strokes.