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Multiple sclerosis is a devastating disease that affects approximately 400,000 Americans, with about 200 new cases diagnosed each week*. The good news is that the clinical applications of neuroscience breakthroughs are now within reach of people with MS in the Greater Hartford region — at the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Center for Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care and Neuroscience Research. Recently opened at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital, the Center offers a coordinated approach to comprehensive MS care and a home for groundbreaking research.
The Center is the result of close collaboration between the Hospital and the Connecticut Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It is named for Joyce and Andy Mandell in recognition of their leadership and support in establishing the Center. Dr. Albert Lo, Director of Neuroscience Research at the Mandell Center, has been conducting research on the use of the Lokomat® — a computer controlled robotic walking system — in MS treatment with the goal of bridging gaps in care. Understanding the nature of MS is the key to filling these gaps in treatment through technology, as Dr. Lo points out. “MS has an inflammatory component and a nerve degenerative component,” he explains. “Advances in technology — such as robotic and computer-assisted devices — can help with the rehabilitation of disease and restoration of function.” This convergence of disease knowledge and technology makes the MS Center the perfect setting for Dr. Lo’s research. “Mount Sinai is unique,” he says “It brings together the MS Center, rehabilitation, technology and research in an integrated, comprehensive program.” This program may one day include the Lokomat as a standard part of MS treatment, along with other innovations. “Some people might use neurotechnology to assist in recovery,” says Dr. Lo. “Others might use it to replace function, as in the case of an implanted computer chip or a robotic arm.” Such advances not only accomplish dramatic outcomes, but can also tailor therapy to individual needs. “You can impress people just by running the Lokomat,” Dr. Lo says, “but no matter how sophisticated the equipment is, you still need research to test how well it works under what conditions, and discover who responds best.”
Stroke Education and Prevention
Getting the message out to patients — and the community
Dr. Robert Krug, Medical Director of Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital, is on a mission. He wants to put the word out about stroke, to educate people who have suffered a stroke and those who haven’t — yet. This covers a lot of ground, as stroke is the leading cause of adult disability, with 700,000 people stricken each year and 3 million Americans currently living with significant disability as the result of a stroke*. All of this makes stroke education and prevention particularly urgent. It starts at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, where stroke patients learn about risk factors with an emphasis on those they can control, such as diet, smoking and blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. For patients transitioning to Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital, further information and support are integrated into their care. Here they learn more about creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and minimizing the impact of complications such as bladder, bowel and swallowing problems. They can take part in stroke support groups, both as inpatients and outpatients. They also hear about the latest technologies and techniques — from functional electrical stimulation to Botox injections. “We want patients to be hopeful and understand that the brain is adaptable and that the recovery timeline is longer than previously thought,” says Dr. Krug. Indeed, with that timeline extending as long as ten years out from the stroke, follow-up therapy and education are especially important. Stroke patients who still require intensive therapy after they leave the Hospital can return to a day treatment program that provides physical, occupational and speech therapies, access to a neuro psychologist and bi-weekly meetings with a therapist for education on preventing future strokes.
Stroke education also extends to the community at large. Dr. Krug, Dr. Phaniraj Iyengar, Medical Director of The Stroke Center at Saint Francis, and Saint Francis cardiologist Dr. Anita Kelsey have given their three-perspective talk on stroke at the Jewish Community Center in Hartford, with more talks in more locations to follow. With stroke affecting the lives of millions each year, their message of prevention and hope is relevant to just about everyone who hears it.