Translational effects of robot-mediated therapy in subacute stroke patients: an experimental evaluation of upper limb motor recovery.

PMID 30202655


Robot-mediated therapies enhance the recovery of post-stroke patients with motor deficits. Repetitive and repeatable exercises are essential for rehabilitation following brain damage or other disorders that impact the central nervous system, as plasticity permits to reorganize its neural structure, fostering motor relearning. Despite the fact that so many studies claim the validity of robot-mediated therapy in post-stroke patient rehabilitation, it is still difficult to assess to what extent its adoption improves the efficacy of traditional therapy in daily life, and also because most of the studies involved planar robots. In this paper, we report the effects of a 20-session-rehabilitation project involving the Armeo Power robot, an assistive exoskeleton to perform 3D upper limb movements, in addition to conventional rehabilitation therapy, on 10 subacute stroke survivors. Patients were evaluated through clinical scales and a kinematic assessment of the upper limbs, both pre- and post-treatment. A set of indices based on the patients' 3D kinematic data, gathered from an optoelectronic system, was calculated. Statistical analysis showed a remarkable difference in most parameters between pre- and post-treatment. Significant correlations between the kinematic parameters and clinical scales were found. Our findings suggest that 3D robot-mediated rehabilitation, in addition to conventional therapy, could represent an effective means for the recovery of upper limb disability. Kinematic assessment may represent a valid tool for objectively evaluating the efficacy of the rehabilitation treatment.