Dorset trusts taking part in groundbreaking stroke rehab trial

26th February 2024

Dorset HealthCare has joined forces with University Hospitals Dorset (UHD) for a pioneering trial of a treatment to help people regain use of their arms after a stroke.

Local stroke patients will be among the first to receive transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (TVNS) as part of their rehabilitation therapy, which involves sending mild electrical pulses to the brain.

Known as the TRICEPS trial, it will run for two years. UHD has already started treating suitable patients with Dorset Healthcare to follow soon – and anyone interested in taking part is being urged to come forward.  

Around 110,000 people suffer with a stroke in the UK every year and one third of stroke survivors are left with permanent arm weakness which can make daily activities difficult.

Rehab therapy is the main treatment for people recovering from a stroke, but many people have persisting arm weakness, limiting their ability to look after themselves.

In TRICEPS, instead of an implant inserted under a general anaesthetic, brain stimulation will instead be triggered via a lightweight, wearable pacemaker-like device which connects to a wired earpiece.

The stimulation will be automatically activated as the arm is moved during therapy and the connected earpiece gently tickles the ear, meaning people can access the treatment at home and without the need for invasive surgery.

It is hoped that the portable device will allow the revolutionary treatment to be provided to larger numbers of stroke patients.

Louise Clark, stroke consultant therapist at Dorset HealthCare, said:

“We are really excited to be taking part in this pioneering work. In preliminary trials, it was shown that gently ‘tickling’ a nerve at the ear using mild electrical pulses improved arm and hand weakness after stroke, when used in conjunction with rehab therapy.

“In this new trial, led by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, we hope to see if these initial findings are replicated in larger number of patients. As this treatment does not require surgery, it can form part of people’s at-home rehabilitation.”

Dorset Healthcare will run the trial for eligible patients in North Dorset, West Dorset and Purbeck, while UHD will treat people in the east of the county.  

Dr Louise Johnson, stroke consultant therapist at UHD, added:

 “Participants will be asked to wear the device for an hour, five times a week, as they carry out their rehabilitation exercises at home, with the support of community physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

“Some people will also be asked to wear the device while performing their usual daily activities for a period of 12 weeks. 

“This trial is open to people up to 10 years after a stroke. There are not many rehabilitation studies so broad in their criteria, so we are keen to offer this opportunity to people in Dorset.”

 To find out more about the trial, please contact 0300 019 4504 or (people living in the BCP area or east Dorset), or – for residents elsewhere in the county – 01935 601454 or

More information and an online eligibility questionnaire is also available at

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