In a nutshell
This study compared the effects of arm robot-assisted therapy (RAT) and conventional therapy to treat arm disability in stroke survivors. Researchers suggested that RAT was associated with an increased level of arm recovery.
A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is cut off. Oxygen supply stops and the brain cells begin to die. The abilities controlled by these cells are lost and stroke survivors are left with symptoms such as arm paralysis.
It is known that timely intensive, task-oriented therapy is necessary for recovery. The use of RAT has been growing in clinical settings. It uses a robotic hand to allow for repetitive training of impaired arms. This helps to recover the arm strength and function.
Prior studies showed that RAT and electrical stimulation separately increased activities of daily living. Electrical stimulation consists of the use of electrical impulses to activate the arm muscles. However, a combination of these two methods had not been tested so far.
Methods & findings
This study included information about 39 patients with stroke (within less than 8 weeks). 19 patients received 30 sessions (5 sessions per week) of RAT combined with electrical stimulation. A control group was included where 20 patients received conventional therapy. Participants were followed-up at the start of the study, after 3 weeks, at the end of treatment and 6 months after that.
The measured outcomes were movement recovery, arm function, arm stiffness and daily activities.
Both groups equally improved all measured outcomes. However, in patients with the same level of disability, RAT combined with electrical stimulation resulted in greater improvements in recovery after 6 months.
Patients with mild arm injury, who responded well to electrical stimulation and started therapy early (less than 30 days after stroke) had the greatest improvements.
The bottom line
This study concluded that RAT combined with electrical stimulation was associated with a higher level of recovery when compared to conventional therapy.
The fine print
This study included a limited number of participants. Further studies are necessary with bigger populations.
Published By :
Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Oct 31, 2019