Purpose: Upper limb robot-assisted rehabilitation is a highly intensive therapy, mainly recommended after stroke. Whether robotic therapy is suitable for subacute patients with severe impairments including cognitive disorders is unknown. This retrospective study explored factors impacting on motor performance achieved in a 16-session robotic training combined with standard rehabilitation.
Methods: Seventeen subacute inpatients (age 53 ± 18; 49 ± 26 days post-stroke) were assessed at baseline using upper extremity motor impairments scales, Functional Independence Measure, aphasia and neglect scores. Number of movements and robotic assistance were compared between Session 2 (S2), 8 (8) and 16 (S16), Motricity Index between pre and post-treatment. Correlation analyses explored predictors of motor performance.
Results: Overall, number of movements and Motricity Index increased significantly while robot-assistance decreased. The mean number of movements per session correlated positively with baseline motor capacities but not with age, aphasia and neglect. However, the increase in Motricity index correlated negatively with baseline Motricity index and the increase in the number of movements correlated negatively with the number of movements at S2.
Conclusion: High intensity robot-assisted training may be associated with motor improvement in subacute hemiparesis. More severely impaired patients may derive greater benefit from robot-assisted training; age, aphasia and neglect do not represent exclusion criteria.