Mathematical modelling enables faster development of electrical stimulation devices customised for patients

13 October 2009

The Cleveland FES Center in the US has used model-based design tools to develop technology that more quickly restores movement to individuals with neuromuscular disabilities.

Adopting model-based design reduced the development time of functional electrical stimulation (FES) devices and enabled researchers to build customized prototypes for patients many times faster than they could do before.

FES devices restore movement to paralyzed arms and legs. They send electrical impulses to electrodes — implanted in the body, worn on the skin, or operating through the skin — to produce and control movement. Adapting the FES device for each patient was a time-consuming process, as the device software needed multiple iterations for a customized response to each patient’s needs.

The Cleveland FES Center, at Case Western Reserve University, developed the Universal External Control Unit (UECU) to address the need for tailored FES devices. With the UECU’s modular software and hardware design, research engineers in the clinic can modify a FES controller application and immediately test the results.

With MathWorks tools, teams are able to develop, test, and implement algorithms that suit specific patient scenarios, reducing the traditional development cycle for some FES functions to less than a day.

“All of our FES applications used to be built by dedicated programmers using C code,” said Robert Kirsch, PhD, Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University and Associate Director of Technology, Cleveland FES Center. “The overall process was slow because everything had to be done by our central programmers, which limited how quickly we could move from idea to implementation. MathWorks tools for Model-Based Design provide the flexibility and ease of use that enables our clinical groups to develop and refine FES applications on their own.”

“An approach like model-based design is ideal for researchers and scientists who may not have an extensive software programming background but who are still involved in product design and development,” said Paul Barnard, marketing director — design automation, at The MathWorks. “The creation of industry firsts, such as the UECU, demonstrates just how critical MathWorks tools have become in the field of biomedical research.”

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