Robots Aid Stroke Survivors

Robot assisted therapy aids stroke victims

(RxWiki News) Technology has paved the way for stroke survivors to strengthen a weaker arm. Robot-assisted therapy may better aid stroke victims in regaining mobility.

Research suggests physical therapy with robots may be more effective than traditional therapies. Stroke patients often have difficulty transferring motor skills learned in physical therapy to daily living because of cognitive deficits.

"Ask about robotic-assisted therapy after a stroke."

Keh-chung Lin, a lead research from National Taiwan University, said that six months after a stroke, rehabilitation with robot-assisted therapy provided significantly greater benefits for patients with mild or moderate upper limb impairment. Patients commonly find that one arm is weaker than the other after a stroke.

Researchers enrolled 20 participants to compare robot-assisted therapy. Half of those served as a control group.  Both groups received intensive physical therapy five days a week for four weeks. Each session lasted 90 minutes to 105 minutes and was administered by certified occupational therapists.

The control group participated in task-oriented training and motor learning theory, while the group testing the robotic physical therapy did repetitive bilateral arm movements. A computer screen in front of the participants encouraged them to engage in more activity with the weaker arm and provided feedback throughout the therapy.

Both groups wore accelerometers on both arms to track the body's acceleration and so researchers could record the movement that occurred in their daily lives. They appear similar to a portable wristwatch.

Researchers found that the robot-assisted therapy group was able to handle more daily tasks with the impaired arm than the control group.

Previous studies had suggested that improvements and progress made during robot-based physical therapy did not carry over into patients' daily lives. Investigators suspect that was because many stroke survivors compensate with their other arm.

Additional studies are planned to examine whether the improvements are long lasting.

The research was published in Clinical Rehabilitation.

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Review Date: 
August 11, 2011