A device with mobile games and remote medical monitoring for at-home pelvic floor rehabilitation
As part of the European WOMEN-UP project, the UPC and the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona (Spain), along with the Academic Medical Center (the Netherlands) and Kuopio University Hospital (Finland), have carried out the clinical trial of a system designed to improve pelvic floor muscle training, a recommended treatment to prevent or treat urinary incontinence. This technological solution incorporates serious games for mobile phones that are driven by muscle movement and remote medical monitoring through a web platform.
Urinary incontinence is any involuntary urine leakage. It is a condition that can be more or less severe and it affects one in three women of all ages, which is more than 56 million people in Europe and more than 350 million people in the world. It is not a normal part of ageing and has a negative impact on the quality of life of the women who suffer from it. The main risk factors for urinary incontinence are pregnancy and childbirth, overweight and obesity, and high-impact sports. There are several treatments to improve or cure its symptoms, depending on the type of incontinence, and it can also be prevented by taking measures before it appears.
One approach that has proven effective in preventing and treating stress urinary incontinence is pelvic floor muscle training. It consists of a programme of contraction and relaxation exercises for the muscles that form the base of the pelvis. If the treatment is followed and performed correctly with the supervision of a therapist, the rate of cure/improvement may reach 70%. It is very important to know whether the patient is doing the exercises properly, and that can be achieved through biofeedback devices and computer programs that record—via the electrodes in a vaginal probe—and show muscle activity during the exercises. Only a few clinical devices have this technology and none of them monitor abdominal activity to ensure that the exercises are executed correctly.
Mobile games that motivate patients
The technological solution that WOMEN-UP proposes is a system for home treatment that makes use of remote medical monitoring and serious games installed on the patient’s mobile phone to encourage her to carry on with the regular training. The system consists of three elements: wireless devices that capture muscle contractions and send the data to the smartphone, a web platform that collects data and charts the progression of the treatment, and a smartphone application that contains the games.
“The therapist obtains information telematically through the platform and monitors and programs customised exercises, while the patient can evaluate the results in real time. Both the patient and the therapist can see the evolution at any time,” explains Miguel Ángel Mañanas, the project’s coordinator and a professor at the UPC’s Department of Automatic Control.
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