February 21, 2011

Robots Save Arms After Stroke

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A robot may be the key to keeping people mobile after suffering a stroke. A new study shows therapy involving robotic manipulation of a patient's paralyzed arms combined with standard rehab can improve outcomes.

The study involved 60 stroke survivors who suffered paralysis on one side of the body. All the patients suffered a stroke in the previous four to eight weeks and received standard rehabilitation therapy from an occupational therapist.

Half of the participants received robotic therapy every day for six weeks while the other half spent the same amount of time working through a standard, self-training program that involved stretches and other exercises. The robotic therapy involved moving the patient's forearm in multiple directions based on pre-programmed exercise movements. For example, in one of the movements called "forward reach," the robot helped patients extend their arms forward as if reaching for something in front of them.

Results showed patients in the robotic therapy group displayed a marked improvement in two measures of upper extremity function known as the Fugl-Meyer flexor synergy score and the Fugl-Meyer shoulder/elbow/forearm score.

"Combining robotic exercise with regular rehabilitation may be the key to successful intervention," Kayoko Takahashi, Sc.D., O.T.R., lead author of the study and clinician and research associate in the Department of Occupational Therapy in Kitasato University East Hospital in Kanagawa, Japan, was quoted as saying. Robots could allow therapists to focus on helping patients master daily activities while maintaining repetitive training, Takahashi said.

SOURCE: American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2011, Feb. 20, 2011