Until now, the lack of precise, continuous data on the clinical status of individuals affected by Parkinson’s disease throughout the day was one of the main difficulties faced by neurologists in charge of adapting treatment. Now, this obstacle has been overcome with the new STAT-ON device, the "Holter for Parkinson’s".

The result of a full decade of research, this new device is possible thanks to a firm investment in innovation and collaboration by the Parkinson’s Unit of Centro Médico Teknon – Quirónsalud and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia · Barcelona Tech (UPC) through the Technical Research Centre for Dependency Care and Autonomous Living (CETpD), as well as Sense4Care, a daughter company of the UPC, which was responsible for the final development of the device with the partial funding of the European Union through a project for small and medium-sized businesses (SME Instruments).*

STAT-ON is a small sensor held in place with a specially-designed belt. It constantly monitors patients’ motor status in everyday settings.

Current treatment of Parkinson’s is symptomatic, designed to compensate for the absence of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine. After around two years of effective control using levodopa (the precursor to dopamine), fluctuations of around 50% appear in patients.

As a result, the motor symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s fluctuate several times a day in relation to levodopa levels. These are known as "on periods" and "off periods", and they are the result of the availability or absence of dopamine in the brain. "On" periods typically begin soon after the person has ingested medication, and they are generally when patients feel good and enjoy practical and normal control of movement. On the other hand, "off" periods are generally when motor symptoms appear, severely limiting many patients’ mobility and independence.

The treatment of advanced Parkinson’s focuses on controlling these fluctuations, but until now neurologists have found it difficult to correctly analyse them. It is common practice to ask patients to keep a diary, writing down their clinical status each hour. This requires a significant time investment by the patient/caregiver, the resulting data is often somewhat unreliable, as it is often difficult for patients to recognize their own situation. In addition, motor problems often make it hard for patients to write.

Now, however, this device makes it easy to constantly monitor the on/off fluctuations experienced by patients under levodopa treatment for several years. It also monitors other

motor symptoms experienced by the person (bradykinesia, dyskinesia and freezing) in order to allow for much more precise treatment and significantly improve patients’ quality of life. These on/off fluctuations present significant challenges to patients’ clinical stability and control of the same through dosage adjustments. In addition, STAT-ON can monitor gait parameters, falls and other characteristics of movement that allow for improved management of the disease.

"The measurements and data provided by this Holter for Parkinson’s will help doctors make informed decisions and better manage the disease. It’s important to note that this device doesn’t provide a diagnosis, although the information it collects is extremely helpful to health professionals, allowing them to precisely determine a patient’s status", notes Dr Àngels Bayés, from the Parkinson’s Unit at Centro Médico Teknon – Quirónsalud. Dr Bayés participated in the development of this new device.

Since each individual moves differently, the Holter is designed to adapt to each person. To do so, it uses the information it initially receives from the individual and "learns" from their movement. Then, through artificial intelligence, it personalizes the algorithms it uses to register their motor symptoms. Once this step is completed, the Holter works autonomously and is very easy to use. While carried by the person with Parkinson’s, it does not require any sort of activation or connection. "Since the device is non-invasive, patients can use it in their everyday lives, carrying the sensor on a comfortable, discreet belt while the Holter registers their motor status. Then, it generates a report on the patient’s motor status throughout the day", adds Dr Joan Cabestany, telecommunications engineer, UPC researcher and expert in artificial and electronic intelligence applied to dependency and active aging.

Seminar for patients and professionals

In order to raise awareness about this new tool, a seminar was organized for individuals affected by Parkinson’s and their families, as well as for neurologists and professionals interested in new technologies used to improve quality of life for patients suffering from this disease.

Dr Àngels Bayés and Dr Joan Cabestany explained how this innovative new device manages Parkinson’s disease. Plus, together with an individual affected by Parkinson’s, they presented its benefits in a debate with patients, allowing them to analyse a real-life experience with the device and its usability.

Growing incidence of Parkinson’s

The incidence of Parkinson’s disease has grown in recent years, largely as a result of longer life expectancies in the general population. Over 7 million individuals worldwide have been diagnosed with this neurodegenerative disease, and of these 1.5 million live in Europe and 150.000 in Spain. This disease causes serious motor problems throughout its evolution, and may result in freezing as well as hidden non-motor symptoms including pain, apathy, confusion, difficulty speaking, disturbed sleep and depression. According to data from the Spanish Society of Neurology, each year 10,000 new cases of Parkinson's are diagnosed, and it is the second most frequent neurodegenerative pathology, after Alzheimer's.