Background and purpose: After stroke, only 12% of survivors obtain complete upper limb (UL) functional recovery, while in 30% to 60% UL deficits persist. Despite the complexity of the UL, prior robot-mediated therapy research has used only one robot in comparisons to conventional therapy. We evaluated the efficacy of robotic UL treatment using a set of 4 devices, compared with conventional therapy.
Methods: In a multicenter, randomized controlled trial, 247 subjects with subacute stroke were assigned either to robotic (using a set of 4 devices) or to conventional treatment, each consisting of 30 sessions. Subjects were evaluated before and after treatment, with follow-up assessment after 3 months. The primary outcome measure was change from baseline in the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) score. Secondary outcome measures were selected to assess motor function, activities, and participation.
Results: One hundred ninety subjects completed the posttreatment assessment, with a subset (n = 122) returning for follow-up evaluation. Mean FMA score improvement in the robotic group was 8.50 (confidence interval: 6.82 to 10.17), versus 8.57 (confidence interval: 6.97 to 10.18) in the conventional group, with no significant between-groups difference (adjusted mean difference -0.08, P = 0.948). Both groups also had similar change in secondary measures, except for the Motricity Index, with better results for the robotic group (adjusted mean difference 4.42, P = 0.037). At follow-up, subjects continued to improve with no between-groups differences.
Discussion and conclusions: Robotic treatment using a set of 4 devices significantly improved UL motor function, activities, and participation in subjects with subacute stroke to the same extent as a similar amount of conventional therapy. Video Abstract is available for more insights from the authors (see the Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1, available at: http://links.lww.com/JNPT/A291).