Emory University Hospital is participating in a nationwide clinical study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of electrical stimulation of the brain to promote recovery of hand function in stroke survivors.
The Everest study is a randomized, multi-center study comparing the effects of cortical stimulation plus rehabilitation--versus the effects of rehabilitation alone. Cortical stimulation therapy involves the precise delivery of low levels of electricity to the surface of the brain via an implanted stimulator.
According to Robert Gross, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery in the Emory University School of Medicine, the study is designed to evaluate and treat patients experiencing weakness or loss of function in the arm as a result of ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke is caused by the blockage of an artery leading to the brain, depriving the brain of oxygen and other nutrients. In response to the stroke, the brain reorganizes in an attempt to compensate for the damaged area, but often a stroke survivor is left with a lasting disability.
"We are conducting a randomized, single-blinded study to determine the effectiveness of a device that is similar to a heart pacemaker, in which the electrode is implanted at an active site outside the region of the stroke, which controls hand and arm function" explained Dr. Gross. "The implant electrically stimulates the new active area affected by the stroke, in effect 'waking up' the new nerve pathways, while we also begin vigorous rehabilitation of the hand and arm. After three to six weeks of rehabilitation therapy, the implant is removed and the patient is monitored for up to a year afterward."
Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability worldwide. According to the American Stroke Association, there are approximately five million stroke survivors in the United States, with approximately 700,000 additional strokes occurring each year.
Each year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. become significantly and permanently disabled due to stroke. There are few therapies currently available for these patients.
"This is a great example of how neurology and rehabilitation medicine work in concert with one another," said Dr. Gross. "Emory is one of only 18 centers in the country--and the only one in the Southeast--participating in this study, so we are very excited to be able to use our combined resources to help identify ways of treating stroke survivors."
Patients wishing to learn more about enrolling in the study at Emory may call 1-888-546-9779.