Tracking patients’ progress is a critical part of managing multiple sclerosis (MS), a dreaded inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that too frequently afflicts people beginning
in young adulthood, particularly women.
As the disease progresses, inflammation flakes can occur unpredictably and intermittently in optic nerves, brain, and spinal cord. Episodic symptoms, termed “relapses,” characterize the early
relapsing remitting stage of MS (RRMS), during which irreversible CNS tissue injury accumulates, manifesting as progressive brain atrophy and eventually neurological disability, which is generally
delayed for typically for 10-20 years after MS symptom onset.
During more advanced stages of MS, termed secondary progressive MS (SPMS), relapses occur less frequently or disappear entirely, but gradually worsening neurological disability ensues, and patients
experience some combination of difficulty with walking, arm function, vision, or cognition—a process that can benefit from greater objective analysis.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, have determined that Apple’s iPad (and
potentially other tablet computers that feature built-in technologies like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and touchscreens), when combined with appropriate software, can provide pretty good MS
The Cleveland Clinic research team reports how they’re using the iPad as a tool to perform an array of performance tests relevant to MS assessment in an Open Access study published in the
Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE). For example, they explain that by attaching the iPad to a patient’s back while having her walk and balance, the app running provides precise data
In another evaluation protocol, a specially built attachment that sits on the top of the iPad’s screen allows for dexterity testing using metal pegs. The patient moves pegs between different holes
as requested by a therapist, and the iPad software tracks the timing of the pegs being moved, translating that into an objective evaluation of the subject’s manual dexterity.
Image Credit: Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)
The iPad model used in this study was Apple’s current entry-level full-size iPad