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Virtual reality at the service of rehabilitation in Port-La Nouvelle - L'INDEPENDANT - 21/01/21

Since the beginning of the month, the Francis-Vals hospital of Port-La Nouvelle is the only one in the Aude department to be equipped with a virtual reality device, intended for the re-education of patients.
An innovation imagined by a Montpellier-based start-up which is already offering spectacular results. More than 500 centres and practices worldwide have opted for these innovative solutions.

Neurologist Hafida Touzani notes the patient's spectacular progress After three weeks of use, it turns out that 50% of the rehabilitation time is saved.
This new equipment will further enhance the reputation of the functional rehabilitation centre at the Francis-Vals Hospital in Port-La Nouvelle. This "small establishment", which houses an Ehpad with an Alzheimer's unit and, therefore, a follow-up care and rehabilitation unit, has just acquired new technology equipment.
Precisely from a virtual reality device...
"It's a relatively large investment for us, a small structure with 40 inpatient beds and 10 day hospital places... But we don't have to regret it.
After three weeks of use, it turns out that you save 50% of rehabilitation time," explains the facility's neurologist, Dr. Hafida Touzani.
Specialising in strokes (cerebrovascular accidents) and the treatment of after-effects, the specialist points out that "the first three weeks of rehabilitation are crucial, determining the maximum recovery".


  • Several types of rehabilitation and care: "I discovered the system developed by the company Virtualis first in Perpignan, then in Montpellier. My colleagues were very clear about its effectiveness. I was immediately convinced," she explains. It's not just a tool for stroke rehabilitation. It's used to get orthopaedic patients working after amputations, but also to stimulate patients with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis .

There are various software programs available depending on the pathologies, with several levels of difficulty. All of them are based on virtual reality immersion. "Whatever the age of the patient, the sessions generate motivation," say Dr. Touzani and Laurence Ditner, head physiotherapist at the hospital.

  • Spectacular results:
    And why does it work so well? "It allows for neurological recovery capacity," says Hafida Touzani.
    And to cite a very recent example. "A hemiplegic patient was immersed in a virtual reality activity requiring the use of both hands. After a 30-minute session, he had already regained sensation in his paralysed hand," says the doctor. All of the unit's caregivers have already adopted this new tool, which has the added advantage of providing the patient with conclusive statistics. "Each session is analyzed by the software and the progress is translated into graphs that further enhance patient motivation," says Hafida Touzani. There is no doubt that Francis-Vals will receive many requests to test this method of care.
    Not all of them can be met for reasons of capacity. However, Dr. Touzani tells us that the creation of a mobile team is in the planning stages...


Sabrina's in this program in Port La Nouvelle.
"It's my first really effective rehab."
With myopathy, this patient was able to make significant progress.
The goal is to regain her autonomy.
Sabrina, an Audoise who lives in the Montagne Noire, is a victim of myopathy, this orphan and underhanded genetic disease for which there is no treatment. It causes a muscular degeneration which requires regular care. "For the past five years, I've been following comprehensive three-week programmes to recover my reflexes, regain my stature and improve my walking ability," she explains. The problem," she adds, "is that in order to find appropriate care, I am forced to make my own investigations to find out where to go; orphan diseases are not taken into account, or very little. I have tested several facilities, but with no conclusive results. In 2020, because of the health crisis, I did not follow any programme. When I arrived here in Francis-Vals, I had lost all my abdominal muscles and was walking bent over backwards, with great difficulty," says Sabrina.
As an active person, her priority is to regain her independence. Rather than three weeks previously and because of her worsening condition, her hospitalization was planned for three months. Since virtual reality arrived at Francis-Vals, she has been attending regular sessions and proudly shows that her stature is once again almost normal. "And what's more, it's a lot of fun," she says. According to her, it is an undeniable "plus" to the classic programme of physiotherapy, balneotherapy or therapeutic yoga.
She adds that she reports in real time on her progress to the AFM-Telethon.

Virtualis, a pioneering company with dazzling success
Franck Assaban, a state-qualified physiotherapist masseur, has become an expert in the rehabilitation of balance disorders (three university degrees in this field), a field which he has practised in private practice. He very quickly identified all the potential that the use of virtual reality could bring to the care of his patients, thanks to its immersive and realistic aspect.

  • A very strong potential
    This potential was not limited to the treatment of balance and vestibular disorders, but had a much wider range of applications and is still far from being fully exploited to date.
    Franck is the first therapist in the world to have designed a rehabilitation software with a virtual reality (VR) immersion mask, as early as 2014. He therefore launched and decided to create Virtualis in May 2015 with one obsession: to work to provide therapeutic solutions and to advance patient care. He is the designer of software and platforms for assessment & rehabilitation; he has this double skill: health professional and virtual reality content designer. Each new application is addressed to the users of the solutions developed by Virtualis. He is regularly invited to international scientific congresses to present his work, to show the potential of RV for therapeutic purposes or to contribute his expertise as a therapist. The success of the start-up is dazzling. Currently, its therapeutic innovation, developed by healthcare professionals, equips some 500 practices and centres in 26 countries around the world.

Joël Ruiz

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