LONDON, October 20, 2014 /PRNewswire
Britain’s largest conference bringing together experts from the reconstructive, cosmetic and non-surgical worlds witnessed this weekend the unveiling of new technology to help treat facial paralysis; developed by a plastic surgeon and the animation teams that worked on blockbusters such as Harry Potter, The Mummy, bestselling video game Grand Theft Auto and the L’Oréal ‘Makeup Genius’ app.
Revolutionary new iPad software to aid the rehabilitation of patients with facial palsy conditions including those stemming from strokes was introduced to an audience of more than 3,000 surgeons, doctors and nurses at the Clinical Cosmetic and Reconstructive Expo in London Olympia, 10-11 October, 2014.
The project, which is part-funded by the Wellcome Trust is a collaboration between researchers at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, Brighton-based technology company Sense Innovation, and Image Metrics, a leading film computer graphics company in Manchester. Past facial animation credits of Image Metrics include Harry Potter, The Mummy, and The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button, starring a reversely-ageing Brad Pitt.
Facial palsy is a debilitating condition in which the muscles in the face are weakened, causing a variety of symptoms ranging from numbness to total paralysis of the features. Facial palsy can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections such asBell’s palsy or Lyme Disease, neurological conditions, strokes and developmental syndromes.
The Sussex-based team of researchers headed by consultant plastic surgeon Charles Nduka, have for the first time applied cutting-edge facial movement tracking technology to create an app which will help sufferers re-learn muscle control and improve facial symmetry. The app allows patients to receive live feedback on their recovery via their smartphone or tablet computer in a similar way to activity tracking devices such as Fitbit. Charles Nduka, who leads the facial palsy service at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead and is also founder of charity Facial Palsy UK (http://www.facialpalsy.org.uk), commented:
“Many patients with facial palsy tend to avoid looking in the mirror, but research has shown that observing yourself whilst performing specific facial exercises can improve recovery and reduce disfigurement. Yet anyone who has tried to master a sport or musical instrument will know that the only way to improve muscle control is through regular targeted practice. This app will provide a way to make facial rehabilitation both fun and more effective.”
Senior facial physiotherapist Catriona Neville who is guiding development and eliciting feedback from patients commented:
“Daily facial rehabilitation is often the key to a faster recovery from facial palsy however as with any exercise it can be difficult to stay motivated long term. With facial rehabilitation it is especially difficult as progress can be slow and there is a lack of facial feedback.”
The app will display progress and goals which could even be sent to the physiotherapy team to allow advice to be delivered remotely. The team hope that this will also help patients by reducing the number of unnecessary hospital appointments whilst targeting more intensive face-to-face therapy on those who need it. This is ideal for patients such as six-year-old Felicity, who has had Bell’s Palsy since she was five months old. Mum Emma Murphy says:
“Up until now, Felicity’s treatment has been adult led and has included physiotherapy, vitamins, acupuncture, cranial osteopathy and massage. While she has been compliant this has been straightforward, but now the questioning is coming and the impatience is evident. No longer will she sit still, she doesn’t want strangers pushing and prodding her. Felicity is getting very tired of the exercise regime we have in place and at 6 is not yet self motivated to do it or has the patience to do the stretches and exercises for any great length of time. So we are desperate for an alternative type of therapy that not only will engage Felicity but will also encourage her to continue her treatment for optimum results. The older she gets the more responsibility she will have for her own recovery so if we can help her along the way the benefits would be immeasurable.
“The only thing that keeps an active 6 year old still is modern technology. She’s loves working on the tablet doing work sheets from school, playing games, creating. To her its part of everyday life, it engages her, she concentrates, loves to follow instructions and achieve goals, certificates, medals.
“As she grows, she is changing continually and we face different problems. New methods and treatments for facial palsy which are age appropriate will harness her enthusiasm and give her the best possible chance of a full recovery in the future.”
The app would also be a convenient solution for adult sufferers such as flight service manager Dena Thelwell. She says:
“My job is very visual in that how I dress & look represents the company. I cannot hide away to do my role and am constantly in front of the public. As such when I got facial palsy the impact on my career was huge. I felt ‘disfigured’ in some way and that everyone was looking at me. I locked myself away wouldn’t socialise and lost lots of confidence.
“My doctor didn’t give me much information and I had to research the condition myself. What I found out was that I needed to see an expert to help me with the recovery, that they were the other end of the country and that I needed to be referred by my doctor. I have a 500 mile round trip to access the help I need. The exercises given to me help a great deal but need to be changed in line with my recovery rate and having to wait for my next appointment before I get the next set of exercises sets me back and demotivates me. I can see this app being a godsend to sufferers with busy lives like myself.”
According to Tomos Williams, Head of Academic Relations at Image Metrics:
“Image Metrics are pleased to be applying our expertise to the rehabilitation and treatment monitoring of Bell’s Palsy. Our leading edge facial analysis technology is well suited to this application and we are excited to be working in collaboration with experts in this medical field.”
A clinical trial is planned in conjunction with Imperial College and Brighton University in the near future to investigate whether the app can prevent complications of Bell’s palsy. Sense Innovation hope to release the first movement tracking app in 2015 and will be conducting clinical trials to study the effectiveness of the app compared with standard treatments.
According to Peter Jones, Chief Executive Officer of the Clinical Cosmetic and Reconstructive Expo:
“Our conference in Olympia is the ideal destination for clinicians to explore the latest advances in the sector – our show has grown exponentially this year and we look forward to showcasing the most cutting-edge technologies and techniques from the reconstructive, aesthetic and non-surgical arenas.”
Notes to editors
About Queen Victoria Hospital
The Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust hosts the largest facial palsy service in the UK. Led by plastic and reconstructive surgeon Mr Charles Nduka, the facial palsy team includes specialists in physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, psychological therapy and eyelid surgery.
About Image Metrics
The facial tracking technology used in this app is being licensed from Image Metrics. Founded in 2000, Image Metrics is a pioneer in the field of facial analysis and animation technologies. The company’s proprietary algorithms capture, recognise and analyse nuanced facial expressions and emotions in real-time and has been used to animate characters in leading films and games. Image Metrics is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, with its R&D centre located in Manchester, UK. For more information, please visit http://www.Image-Metrics.com .
About Sense Innovation
Sense Innovation Ltd is a technology company based in Brighton. Based at the Sussex Innovation Centre the company is developing wearable technology and movement monitoring apps that aim to improve performance, health and fitness.
About Facial Palsy UK
Facial Palsy UK (http://www.facialpalsy.org.uk) aims to improve understanding of facial palsy among the public and the medical profession, and improve access to treatments currently available, as well as raising funds for research into new treatments. The need for a charity specifically for facial palsy was recognised following a survey conducted by a specialist clinic which noted that the average duration between the onset of paralysis and referral to a specialist for treatment was 5.6 years, and patients were travelling from across the UK (including Northern Ireland and Scotland) in order to be seen. Worryingly, quality of the information given by health professionals varied widely and there were limited resources in the community to support patients, their relatives and partners. Very few research projects investigating the causes and treatments of facial palsy are being undertaken currently, and that was another key reason for setting up Facial Palsy UK – to raise funds for medical research into the various causes of facial palsy and how it might be prevented, the effects and consequences for people living with the condition, and new treatments for facial palsy.
About CCR Expo
The Clinical Cosmetic & Reconstructive Expo (http://www.ccr-expo.com) is a groundbreaking business-to-business event that brings the international surgical and non-surgical community together under one roof. The first-ever expo ran from 11-12 October 2013 at London, Olympia and showcased over 120 international exhibitors, alongside 14 days of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) content, including workshops, conferences and live demonstration theatres, packed into an exciting two-day event. The next Expo taking place also at London Olympia has been scheduled for 10-11 October 2014 and will offer twice the space and workshop content. The Clinical Cosmetic & Reconstructive Expo is organised by NINETEEN EVENTS (http://www.nineteen-events.com), whose management team has a solid track record of organising large-scale international award winning shows. It is also the team behind the new and exclusive CCR Facelift Masterclass event, taking place in 20-21 March, 2015 at London’s Dorchester Hotel.