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NR Times reports on an innovative solution to an age-old domestic problem facing many people in wheelchairs.

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There can be no true independence in the home without mobility; and that includes mobility between floors and levels. Chairlifts / stairlifts are a common solution for people with mobility problems at home.

But what about the many people in wheelchairs who cannot transfer on or off a conventional chairlift? Enter Southampton-based Level Access Lifts, an expert in solving such problems.

Nick Dade, sales director at the firm, which supplies lifts throughout the UK, explains: “Everything we supply is designed to aid those people who are unable to transfer from a wheelchair and are designed to move you in your wheelchair between floors or split levels.

“For example, if you have suffered a stroke and, once a week you need to go to rehab, when the hospital transport comes, they are going to be able to get you in and out of the house without the need to transfer.

“The risk of injury is reduced and it is much more dignified. Many of our lifts are designed to accommodate an attendant or carer as well, so, they are designed with ergonomics in mind.’’

The company’s philosophy is to tailor a solution to a client’s individual needs.

“We are a solutions-driven company,’’ says Dade.

“We want to know about the person behind the issue. In my case, 10 years ago my father had a brain haemorrhage and he went from being a fit man to being severely disabled. I have been in the lift business for 30 years, but the last 10 years have taught me an awful lot about the person behind the lift and what’s needed and what’s important.

“We fully understand that every person and every building is different and therefore we have an extensive product portfolio and the knowledge to cover a multitude of different circumstances.

“Our approach is: ‘what is the situation you are trying to overcome?’ We can either assess it from photographs or visit the property. We then offer the best solution, or maybe two or three solutions that have their pros and cons.

“Given that we are independent and don’t manufacture our own lifts, we’re not biased towards any particular one.’’

He adds: “There are so many different scenarios and we aim to fit lifts where they’ll cover a multitude of situations, for example, if someone gets heavier or bigger, or if a second person in the family needed to use it for a different reason.

“The whole idea is to try to make that one purchase the right purchase from the beginning and to allow the customer to make an informed decision.’’

Level Access Lifts sources its products from around the world, looking for innovative design and quality of build. One, from Denmark called the Flexstep, is a lift and a staircase in one product and can morph between the two functions at the press of a button.

All of its lifts are simple and intuitive to operate – usually as simple as an up and down button. After installation, the company takes care of the regular maintenance.

Dade says: “It’s a seamless customer experience. From the moment somebody rings us, through to going out to survey, through to fitting the lift and thereafter maintaining it, they get a smooth, trouble-free experience.

“We have grown our business since 2002 predominantly on referrals. We’re very well known for giving good advice and providing a good quality product.’’

For more information visit  www.levellifts.co.uk or call Level Access Lifts on 0856 4662 999.

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Sector-changing entrepreneur launches new app to support whole neurorehab community

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The app is the successor to stroke recovery platform Stroke Active

A man whose frustration at the lack of cohesion within stroke care spawned the development of an award-winning app has now developed a platform to enable this revolutionary approach to be extended throughout the neuro sector.

Neuro ProActive has been created to enable a fully multi-disciplinary approach to rehabilitation, covering both inpatient and community care and involving patients and their families in the process.

Through the app, therapists can use end-to-end encrypted messaging and video calling to offer remote services and patient monitoring – factors which were planned before the pandemic, but have now taken on new importance within rehabilitation care.

Set to launch into six NHS Trusts initially, national and international expansion is planned for Neuro Proactive in the near future.

Neuro ProActive is the successor to Stroke Active, developed by Ian Pearce, whose father had a stroke in 2017, and the lack of co-ordination in his care spurred him to create a platform to help families like his.

It received the Innovation of the Year Award at the 2019 European Neuro Convention, in recognition of the role it played in revolutionising communication between stroke professionals and promoting patient self-management.

But rather than just revising and rebranding his existing software, Ian has invested in creating Neuro ProActive from scratch, appointing specialist healthcare software developer L2S2 to oversee its development.

“We scrapped it and started again, there is not a single piece of code that is the same as in Stroke Active,” says Ian, who worked in the City before becoming an unexpected health tech entrepreneur.

“It’s so important we were giving exactly what was wanted and needed, not a revised version of what we did before, which is why we have built something totally new.

“We want Neuro ProActive to stand on its own two feet – it is designed to be a global platform and through it being built from scratch with the best software, there is huge potential.”

Following the success of Stroke Active and its adoption by stroke professionals nationwide, Ian realised the need for its expansion into all aspects of neuro care.

“Frequently, there is a gap between inpatient and outpatient – early supported discharge too often is just early discharge, you hear stories of people waiting six weeks before their therapy starts, which makes things so much more difficult further down the line,” says Ian.

“But by using the platform, we have enabled patients to connect with their community rehab team. We work across all six disciplines – neurophysio, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, diet, arts and neuropsychology – and the whole MDT can contribute to the dashboard in real time.

“Enabling patients to have the ability to self-manage, while also including family members in the rehabilitation process, is so important. Through using the app, everyone can be involved in the process. Each patient has their own message board too, so can instantly get in touch with their team.”

As well as enabling better communication and a more joined up approach for neuro patients, the fact Neuro ProActive covers remote services has proved an invaluable addition, given the current ways of working.

“This was developed pre-COVID, but now we have this horrendous virus and with it new ways of working, it is even more important,” says Ian.

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Could paralysed patients be walking again by 2024?

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ONWARD's ARC EX and ARC IM technologies could bring life changing effects to those with spinal cord issues

People who have been paralysed for years could be enabled to stand and walk again through revolutionary technology set to launch within the next four years – and a breakthrough in upper body movement is expected even sooner.

The groundbreaking work of ONWARD is set to deliver the long-awaited advances for people with spinal cord injury in enabling them to regain the ability of movement.

Through the development of its ARC EX and ARC IM technologies, ONWARD is committed to delivering life-changing outcomes for spinal cord injured people.

Trials of its ARC EX device got underway in the UK – at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow – United States, Canada and the Netherlands, in January, with the technology expected to be commercially available in late 2023.

An external, non-invasive platform, the ARC EX is set to deliver movement and strength in the hands and upper body of people with spinal cord injury, compared to rehabilitation training alone.

And in one of the most keenly-awaited health tech breakthroughs of recent years, its ARC IM technology – an implantable pulse generator and lead which stimulates the spinal cord and is controlled by wearable components and a smartwatch – is set to go into trials mid next year, with its commercial launch anticipated in 2024.

Alongside its potential to enable paralysed people to stand and walk again with little or no assistance, other benefits could include improvements in blood pressure regulation, sexual function, bladder and bowel control and reduction in spasticity.

“This is very real and it is happening, and we hope it will bring strength, function and meaningful quality of life to so many people,” Dave Marver, CEO of ONWARD, tells NR Times.

The technology breakthroughs come after many years of groundbreaking pre-clinical research, which led to the formation of ONWARD – formerly known as GTX Medical – in 2014 to take this forward.

Bringing together researchers and surgeons in Switzerland, working together at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV), the company is backed by many of Europe’s leading life science venture capital investors in bringing its solutions to reality.

“A lot of funding has gone into this field of research and we are taking this forward to create the products which can translate into commercial reality globally,” says Dave.

“We have put together a great team to build this company, raise the capital needed to fund the trials and the R&D, and this is a very fulfilling challenge and responsibility for all of us.

“We are well on the way towards ARC EX and we have started pivotal trials at 15 sites worldwide, and we hope to launch this in late 2023.

“We know that the movement and function of the upper extremities is what people with spinal cord injury value the highest, so we are targeting that first. In the near future, that should be a reality.

“Following that will be our implant, which will help unlock more autonomous benefits. We expect the pivotal trials to begin in mid 2022 with commercialisation most likely in 2024.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the many challenges it has presented to global businesses, ONWARD has managed to continue with its work as planned.

“We’ve been affected like everyone else in having to work from home and close our offices, we also have a growing team and have had to bring people into the business with limited interactions, but the pandemic has not impeded us,” says Dave.

“Our vision of helping people with spinal cord injury is very unifying and we are all dedicated to trying to achieve that. We’re all highly motivated in the team, as are our research partners, and we’re working towards delivering our platforms in the very near future.”

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New tech ‘can classify child brain tumours’

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The University of Birmingham helped led the research into the new tech

Cutting-edge new technology can successfully classify the diagnosis and characteristics of common types of paediatric brain tumours, new research has found.

Through the use of weighted imaging, an advanced imaging technique, combined with machine learning (AI), a brain tumour’s type can potentially be classified without the use of biopsy.

This will enable to tumour to be characterised and then treated more efficiently, the UK study concluded.

The largest cause of death from cancer in children are brain tumours in the posterior fossa area of the brain. However, within this area, there are three main types of brain tumour, and being able to characterise them quickly and efficiently can be challenging.

Currently a qualitative assessment of MRI by radiologists is used, although overlapping radiological characteristics can make it difficult to distinguish which type of tumour it is, without the confirmation of biopsy.

In the paper ‘Classification of paediatric brain tumours by diffusion weighted imaging and machine learning’ – led by the University of Birmingham and including researchers from WMG, University of Warwick – researchers found that tumour diagnostic classification can be improved by using non-invasive diffusion weighted imaging, when combined with machine learning.

“If this advanced imaging technique, combined with AI technology, can be routinely enrolled into hospitals it means that childhood brain tumours can be characterised and classified more efficiently, and in turn means that treatments can be pursued in a quicker manner with favourable outcomes for children suffering from the disease,” says Professor Theo Arvanitis, Director of the Institute of Digital Health at WMG, University of Warwick and one of the authors of the study.

Diffusion weighted imaging involves the use of specific advanced MRI sequences, as well as software that generates images from the resulting data that uses the diffusion of water molecules to generate contrast in MR image.

An Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) map can then be extracted, analysed values of which can be used to give more information about the tumour.

The study involved 117 patients from five primary treatment centres across the UK, with scans from 12 different hospitals on a total of 18 different scanners, the images from them were then analysed and region of interests were drawn by both an experienced radiologist and an expert scientist in paediatric neuroimaging.

Values from the analysis of ADC maps from these images’ regions have been fed to AI algorithms to successfully discriminate the three most common types of paediatric posterior fossa brain tumours, non-invasively.

“Using AI and advance Magnetic Resonance imaging characteristics, such as Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) values from diffusion weighted images, can potentially help distinguish, in a non-invasive way, between the main three different types of paediatric tumours in the posterior fossa, the area of the brain where such tumours are most commonly found in children,” continues Prof Arvanitis.

Professor Andrew Peet, NIHR Professor in Clinical Paediatric Oncology at the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Children’s Hospital, adds: “When a child comes to hospital with symptoms that could mean they have a brain tumour that initial scan is such a difficult time for the family and understandably they want answers as soon as possible.

“Here, we have combined readily available scans with artificial intelligence to provide high levels of diagnostic accuracy that can start to give some answers.

“Previous studies using these techniques have largely been limited to single expert centres. Showing that they can work across such a large number of hospitals opens the door to many children benefitting from rapid non-invasive diagnosis of their brain tumour.

“These are very exciting times and we are working hard now to start making these artificial intelligence techniques widely available.”

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