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Improving Patient Balance and Mobility: Smart Equitest Balance Master

March 10, 2009

Balance disorders are a serious health concern impacting a large percentage of the population. Individuals with balance problems often experience a frustrating cycle of physician referrals from one specialist to the next, mounting medical expenses, and no clear resolution of their problem. However, modern technology is offering new hope to these patients. The same technology used to measure equilibrium in NASA shuttle crews pre- and post-flight is now assisting clinicians in assessing and treating patients with balance-related problems at St. Vincent Healthcare Outpatient Rehabilitation. The Smart Equitest Balance Master assessment and rehabilitation system represents the most advanced balance and mobility assessment and treatment equipment available.

Patients at St. Vincent Healthcare’s Outpatient Rehabilitation with balance, mobility and/or dizziness problems are tested on the Smart Equitest which consists of a highly sensitive forceplate connected to a computer. The forceplate measures the patient’s center of gravity and weight-bearing symmetry as they perform various tasks designed to objectively assess functional ability. Specific tests can isolate the different senses (vestibular, visual and somatosensory) that contribute to balance control and help identify the patient’s balance problem. Other performance tests objectively measure the patient’s ability to safely and efficiently perform mobility tasks that are common in daily life activities. The data provided by these computerized tests aid clinicians at St. Vincent in developing the best treatment for each individual patient.

Patients at St. Vincent Healthcare’s Outpatient Rehabilitation can also perform various exercises on the Smart Equitest as part of their therapy. The system includes interactive technology with instant biofeedback, which is displayed on a computer screen to guide and prompt patients during rehabilitation. The patient’s movements are represented by an icon that follows exactly how a task is being performed. Targets may appear on the computer screen as the patient attempts to control his/her icon. The goal is to make the icon reach the targets, much like a video game. The clinician can design targets to encourage specific movements by the patient, thereby helping to build physical stability, endurance and confidence. Both the patient and the clinician can see the system’s computer screen in real time as the patient shifts his or her center of gravity. Patients find the interactive nature of the system motivating as they can see immediately how they are performing.

The Smart Equitest has specific applications to patients recovering from stroke, head injury, and orthopedic or sports injuries. These conditions can restrict freedom of movement and expose the individual to dangers of falling.

The equipment is also helping aging patients with balance problems such as dizziness, unsteadiness and falls. According to several medical studies, one-third to one-half of the population age 65 and older fall each year and many of these individuals require hospital stays due to fractures or head injuries.

The St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation’s Marynell Heringer Golf Tournament and generous community donors purchased the Smart Equitest. For more information on a balance assessment or rehabilitation contact Carol Engle, MPT at 238-6400. Carol is certified in vestibular rehabilitation through the both the American Physical Therapy Association/Sue Herdman and the American Institute of Balance.

The St. Vincent Healthcare Foundationand St. Vincent Healthcare Outpatient Rehabilitation will host an OPEN HOUSE – Wednesday, March 11th 4:00pm-5:30pm. St. Vincent Healthcare Outpatient Rehabilitation therapists will be available to demonstrate the Smart Equitest Balance Master as well as the Bioness L300, for foot drop, and Dartfish for sports related movement analysis.