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Taking the guesswork out of Parkinson’s assessments

For years after Katrina was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she put on a brave face; not wanting those around her to know the toll the disease was having.

Each time she visited her neurologist, she pushed through the exercises required and always said she was doing great – never really telling the specialist that she was struggling.

This influenced her Parkinson’s assessment score to remain the same for a number of years – meaning that from a clinical perspective, it seemed her Parkinson’s progression was stable.

“It wasn’t until I owned up and said, I’m not really doing that great, I do get really tired, that we got to the nuts and bolts of how I felt,” Katrina explained.

Bionics Institute researchers are in the early stages of developing a wearable device called the Bionics Institute Rigidity Device (BiRD) to help patients like Katrina.

The BiRD device, designed to be placed on the hand, has sensors that record hand and finger movement in response to a miniature motor that pulls the finger back and forth.

In only 2 minutes, it can give precise information on the level of rigidity in the patient, supporting clinicians to objectively measure Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

“It’s very hard to diagnose Parkinson’s – I saw three neurologists, a vascular surgeon, a neurosurgeon and two or three other specialists and no-one made a diagnosis. Katrina

Currently, accurate assessments of Parkinson’s patients can be challenging for clinicians, especially when small changes in their symptoms occur in response to treatment, or if there are long periods of time between assessments.

Katrina says that having this technology available to those with Parkinson’s and their specialists would be life changing, as early-stage clinical trials have shown that the device can distinguish between people with and without the disease as well as track the results of therapy.

“It’s very hard to diagnose Parkinson’s – I saw three neurologists, a vascular surgeon, a neurosurgeon and two or three other specialists and no-one made a diagnosis.

“They might have suspected but they weren’t sure. Having early intervention options is key to supporting people with Parkinson’s and those overseeing their care.”

Learn more about our Parkinson’s disease research here.

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