Background: Stroke is a major cause of disability and mobility impairment among adults in the United States. Robotic-aided therapy is a strategy that has been used to assist individuals who are recovering from a stroke. Robotic-arm therapy is potentially useful because it can be used for repetitive high-intensity and task-specific rehabilitation treatment.
Objectives: To investigate the effect of robot-aided therapy on the upper-limb motor control and functional abilities of stroke patients.
Search strategy: The authors conducted a search of data sources including Pubmed, Cochrane Controlled Trials (Rehabilitation and Related Therapies), Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information and Exchange (CIRRIE), and National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC). The researchers identified relevant articles published from 1975 to August 2005.
Selection criteria: Studies that focused on the use of robotic devices for therapeutic treatment were considered for this review.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently selected, assessed, and summarized the studies. A total of eight articles were selected for the synthesis. The authors used the Amsterdam-Maastricht Consensus List for Quality Assessment to rate the quality of each study.
Main results: The results showed that forward-directed robot-aided therapy improves several motor control aspects and has long-term effects of several months to several years. However, the authors report limited influence on functional abilities of stroke patients. Few large-scale RCTs have been conducted in this field; thus, factors that influence outcomes remain uncertain. In addition, a limited number of studies (n = 8) were available for synthesis.
Conclusions: Robot-aided therapy can improve short-term and long-term motor control; however, no consistent effect on the improvement of functional abilities has been reported.