Robotic arm improves upper extremity function in stroke survivors

Performing everyday tasks with the assistance of a robotic arm is as efficacious as manual practice to improve upper extremity impairment in stroke survivors, according to recent study results.

The study, published in Clinical Rehabilitation, included 16 participants who exhibited chronic, stable, moderate upper extremity impairment. Split into two groups and supervised by a therapist, one group used a portable robotic-assisted arm to perform repetitive task-specific practice for 30 minutes, 3 days a week for 8 weeks, whereas the other group performed the same activity regimen manually. The upper extremity Fugl-Meyer, Canadian Occupational Performance Measure and Stroke Impact Scale were administered on two occasions before intervention and once after intervention.

After intervention, researchers found that the two groups exhibited nearly identical Fugl-Meyer score increases of 2.1 points, whereas the group using the robotic arm exhibited larger score changes on all but one of the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure and Stroke Impact Scale subscales. This included a 12.5-point increase on the Stroke Impact Scale recovery subscale.

“Our results are exciting not just because we showed robotics-assisted therapy can offer equal benefit. We showed that both groups got better, even among patients who had suffered strokes as long as 8 years ago,” Stephen Page, PhD, OTR/L, associate professor of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in Ohio State’s College of Medicine, stated in a news release. “Study participants who trained with the robotic arm also reported feeling stronger and more positive about the rehabilitation process.

“Loss of upper extremity movement remains one of the most common and devastating stroke-induced impairments. We know active rehabilitation programs help people regain function, but we still don’t know who will benefit the most from these types of therapy,” Page said. “We have to give these patients every chance possible to get better, because they can keep getting better.”

For more information:

Page SJ. Arch Phys Med Rehabil.2013;94:817-21.

Page SJ. ClinRehabil. 2013;27:494-503.

Disclosure: The researchers were supported by the American Stroke Association and by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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