Robot Therapy Gets Stroke Survivors Moving

Rehabilitation with robots helps severe stroke survivors walk

(RxWiki News) For some patients who suffer a stroke, the impact may be significant, leaving them severely impaired. These individuals may benefit from an innovative rehabilitation program that incorporates robotic assistance.

The robotic assistance device appears to aid severely impaired stroke survivors relearn to walk when added to traditional rehabilitation.

"Talk to your physical therapist about rehab programs that could most benefit you."

Dr. Giovanni Morone, lead researcher, a physiatrist specialist and temporary assistant professor at the Santa Lucia Foundation, Institute for Research Hospitalization and Health Care in Italy, said that after rehab with the robotic assistance for two years, five times more severely impaired stroke survivors who were unable to walk at the beginning of the study were able to do so.

He said the added therapy seemed to have little difference in stroke patients without severe impairment, making it important to appropriately select which patients could best benefit from the program.

During the study, 48 stroke survivors who had been discharged from the hospital, but were unable to walk, underwent two traditional gait rehabilitation sessions five days a week. Half of the patients also received 20 electromechanical robotic gait training sessions over a period of several months.

They participants, who were placed in groups based on mobility, were evaluated in the hospital, at discharge and two years later.

The electro-mechanical platforms were attached to patients' feet and controlled by a physical therapist, who progressively selected bearing weight and walking pace.

Patients were evaluated by their ability to walk and perform other daily tasks. Only patients with the most severe impairments had improved in their ability to walk without assistance two years later.

Previous studies also found the robotic devices were beneficial, but did not determine whether the results would last long term.

Researchers suggest that future research should consider treatment options for patients with various degrees of motor impairment, and the amount of time it may take for recovery.

The study was recently published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Review Date: 
December 14, 2011