Researcher to Watch:
ALLISON SYMSACK, PT, DPT
Nearly two million people living in the U.S. have suffered a lower limb amputation (LLA). Besides being injured in combat, amputation surgeries are a common occurrence in the Veteran’s Health Administration (VA) due to motor vehicle and work-related accidents as well as from infections, diabetes, dysvascular conditions, and cancer. Individuals with limb loss are at a higher risk for secondary health effects like joint pain, osteoarthritis, chronic lower back pain, and cardiovascular disease. Effective rehabilitation and innovative life-long care is essential to alleviate these secondary health effects and give patients a better quality of life.
Geneva Senior Research Physical Therapist Allison Symsack, PT, DPT, is working on the Mobile Device Outcomes-based Rehabilitation Program (MDORP), a DoD/VA Joint Incentive Fund, in collaboration with Geneva, the University of Miami, VA, and Department of Defense (DoD), to determine if wearable sensor technology improves strength, mobility, and gait quality in service members and veterans with LLA. This program is led by Geneva Principal Investigators, Army Col. (Ret). Paul Pasquina, MC, MD, and Brad Isaacson, PhD, MBA, MSF, PMP.
Since October of 2019, Dr. Symsack has been an integral part of MDORP. MDORP is a comprehensive mobile rehabilitation program that’s guided by a clinician and incorporates the use of mobile health (mHealth) technology to provide evidence-based rehabilitation through a targeted exercise program, and a self-management program through audio biofeedback that uses small sensors in a knee sleeve worn at home during daily walking or exercise to improve their functional mobility.
“This is a game-changer for our service members and Veterans with limb loss,” says Dr. Symsack. “The use of the mobile health technology in this program really excites me since it provides increased access to specialized rehabilitative care to those that otherwise may have found it difficult to travel to a medical facility.”
The team partnered together to develop and incorporate MDORP as a part of the standard of care for service members and Veterans with LLA and are hopeful this technology can expand to the broader DoD and VA populations. “The demand for mobile technology is continuing to expand and this is not expected to slow down,” said Dr. Isaacson. “This transformation has been driven by consumer preference, expanded use of smart devices, the geographic distance between home and healthcare sites, and the impact of COVID-19. The MDORP program, which has been pioneered by our colleagues at the University of Miami, is transformative for those with lower extremity injuries.”
“Despite the benefits of prosthetics, a substantial number of people with LLA amputation don’t use them,” said Dr. Symsack. “This technology not only mitigates secondary health effects like joint pain and osteoarthritis, but it will help service members and veterans maintain a healthy lifestyle and promote prosthetic use.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed do not reflect the official policy of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.