Robot manipulation of arms paralyzed by stroke, in conjunction with standard rehabilitation therapies, can improve arm and shoulder mobility. So says a new study that followed 60 stroke victims in six rehabilitation centers in Japan presented at the America Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2011.
Using a Reo Therapy System by Motorika Ltd in Israel, the study participant's forearms either rested on or were strapped to a platform. The robot then moved the affected arm in multiple directions based on exercises programmed for the study, such as reaching forward. There were five levels of robotic assistance used by the robot, ranging from entirely passive on the part of the patient to movements the patient actively performed.
Study lead author Kayoko Takahashi, ScD., O.T.R. said that robots can carry out repetitive movements time after time exactly, unlike human physical therapists. Improvements were measured against patients working through a standard self-training program for paralyzed patients. Self-training, when not done correctly, can result in pain and increased disability.
“Combining robotic exercise with regular rehabilitation may be the key to successful intervention,” said Takahashi. Therapists could focus on helping patients master daily activities while the robot performs the repetitive training.
Patients receiving robot therapy showed improvement on the Fugl-Meyer flexor synergy score, reflecting recovery of voluntary arm movement, and the Fugl-Meyer shoulder/elbow/forearm score. Robotic therapy was provided every day for six weeks, in 40-minute sessions. The 60 stroke survivors with paralysis on one side of their body had suffered a stroke four to eight weeks before therapy. The average patient age was 65. Each also received standard rehabilitation from an occupational therapist.
Patients with severe hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body) were more likely to benefit from robotic therapy, based on initial mobility scores. Those patients are unable to correctly perform self-training programs because their arms have only reflex or minor voluntary movement.
Information for this article was provided by the American Heart Association. The study was partially funded by Teijin Pharma Limited.