Design and development of a technology-assisted measure of functional mobility in individuals living with an acquired brain injury

Kah Anna 1; Andrysek, Dr Jan 2; McFadyen, Dr Bradford J. 3; Zabjek, Dr Karl 4

1. MHSc Clinical Engineering Candidate, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto; 2. Assistant Professor & Associate Director, Professional Programs, University of Toronto; 3. Professeur titulaire, Département de réadaptation, Université Laval; 4. Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto

Background: Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is the most common form of brain injury which affects the mental and physical health of its victims and places financial burdens on the health system. The current standard of care is limited to the clinical environment with little or no monitoring of the home environment for continued rehabilitation. mTBI clinical assessments are also subjective and qualitative, hence cannot detect subtle differences in mTBI severity. Instrumented tests are carried out in research laboratories with the help of expensive and sophisticated technologies. The purpose of this research is to develop an assessment tool which can be used by the clinician and the patient in the clinical and home environment. Instrumenting the assessment would improve reliability and extend the monitoring of patient progress beyond the clinic.

Methods: A smartphone and optical proximity sensor will be used to collect and transmit data to a local computer for processing. Preliminary testing of this sensor system will determine the concurrent validity of the Phone accelerometer and XZ Sensor with the 3D motion capture system (Vicon). Next, discriminate validity will be used to distinguish control subject data (CONT) from mTBI subject data (mTBI). It is hypothesised there will be a strong agreement (Pearson’s r>0.6 to r>0.8) in the measures recorded by the sensor system and the Vicon system. It is also expected there will be significant (p<0.05) differences (Students t-test) in the measures recorded for the two populations (CONT vs mTBI).

Expected outcomes: The proximity sensor and phone data are expected to be accurate and reliable to assess balance control in CONT and mTBI populations. It is expected that this setup can be used in the clinical and home context due to its simplicity and the ease of use.

Significance: This research would lead a step closer to a participatory model of mTBI patient care which could bridge the gap between clinical assessment and home rehabilitation. The assessment tool developed would instrument an mTBI test adding value to the therapists’ interaction with their patients in the clinic. Future research could study the feasibility of the use of this technology in the community. A further study could also determine the impact of the use of this sensor technology on mTBI patients’ recovery.