The SWIFT cast supports the weakened foot and ankle so an individual can practise walking very soon after a stroke, when the brain has the best chance of recovery through reorganisation of its network of connections.
Prof Valerie Pomeroy, of the University of East Anglia, who is leading the project, said: “Stroke is the largest single cause of adult disability and its effects can be devastating. Even when someone makes a reasonable recovery, they may not be able to cross the road before the traffic lights change.
“We know that the sooner we act after a stroke, the better the chances of recovery. What we aim to discover from this trial is whether the SWIFT Cast can help people regain mobility but we also hope to gain broader insights into underlying mechanisms of recovery from stroke, so we can identify and develop the best therapies for individuals.”
The clinical centres for this trial are in Norfolk and Lanarkshire. Prof Pomeroy and the University of East Anglia are responsible for overall co-ordination of the trial, while Prof Philip Rowe, of the University of Strathclyde, will process and analyse biomechanics data, and Prof Jean-Claude Baron, of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, will process and analyse brain-imaging data obtained from MRI scans.
Each part of the brain will be mapped some three to eight weeks after a stroke to determine the position of the brain damage caused by the stroke. Through this neuro-imaging, the team hopes to establish which patients respond to this therapy. Understanding how survivors respond could lead to better tailoring of therapies to individuals.
The trial is expected to begin in September and will take place over three years. It will involve around 120 participants, recruited from acute stroke units in Norfolk, Lanarkshire and other parts of the UK. This grant has been awarded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) programme, which is funded by the Medical Research Council and managed by the National Institute for Health Research.