By Craig ColemanSeptember 13, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 13, 2007) - Walter Reed Army Medical Center's new Military Advanced Training Center opened its doors today to offer rehabilitating Soldiers the latest in cutting edge equipment to help with their recovery.
The facility is designed for ease of use and has the latest in computer and video monitoring systems and prosthetics to help enhance amputee and patient care.
The 31,000 square-foot facility will house more than 15 specialties, including physicians, nurse case managers, therapists, psychologists, social workers, benefits counselors and representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Charles Scoville, WRAMC's chief of amputee service, said the building is designed to bring together the multi-disciplinary team that cares for warriors in transition. "Our team will provide care from initial surgery through reintegration of warriors to their units, or a seamless transition to VA care," he said.
The MATC's Center for Performance and Clinical Research, known as the gait lab, measures patients' strides. It contains six calibrated force plates - four for walking and two for running. It also includes a dual force-plate treadmill to conduct running analysis and research protocols for prolonged activity. The system has 23 infra-red cameras mounted around the room to gather data.
Mr. Scoville said the researchers are measuring more than a runner's gait and the data will play a significant role in ensuring proper prosthetic fit and alignment and appropriate foot or knee selection.
Another MATC innovation is the Computer Assisted Rehab Environment, which is designed to build a virtual environment around a patient performing tasks on a treadmill bolted to a helicopter simulator. The CAREN uses a video capture system similar to the gait lab, but with an interactive platform that responds to the patient's every move.
"There are only three CAREN systems like this one in the world," Mr. Scoville said. "Its platform is so sensitive you can stand a pencil on its end and the platform will keep it vertical."
The CAREN can also assist warriors recovering from post traumatic stress disorder by reintroducing patients to both simple and complex environments, and measuring their performance while ensuring absolute safety.
"We can continually add stressors," Mr. Scoville said. "We can start with the patient walking on an empty street and gradually add parked cars, traffic, pedestrians and noise. We'll take the patient to the edge of discomfort, but not beyond what they can handle."
Warriors in transition will also be able to communicate with units in Iraq, Afghanistan or Families at home via video teleconference by reserving the Telemedicine Conference Room. Doctors, nurses and medics in the combat zone and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center can also follow their patients' progress.
"The Soldiers can communicate with the people who took care of them at each step of their treatment," Mr. Scoville said. "It gives the medical people in-theater a chance to see how they're doing, which they normally wouldn't have."
The center's 225-foot indoor track boasts the world's first oval support harness.
"It allows the Soldiers to walk or run without a therapist tethered to them," Mr. Scoville said, adding that patients can recover more quickly because the therapist is free to provide immediate feedback to the patient while observing their gait.
Additionally, MATC includes a rope climb and rock wall, uneven terrain and incline parallel bars, vehicular simulators, a fire arms training simulator, physical therapy athletic and exercise areas and an occupational therapy clinic. The facility also has prosthetic-training and skill-training areas, prosthetic-adjustment and fitting rooms and separate exam rooms for all amputee-related care.
The $10 million center augments the capabilities of existing WRAMC facilities and supports the goal of returning multi-skilled leaders and Soldiers to duty. The construction was completed three months ahead of schedule.
(Craig Coleman serves as the assistant editor of the WRAMC Stripe.)