This pilot study tested the effectiveness of an intense, short-term upper-limb robotic therapy for improvement in motor outcomes among chronic stroke patients. We enrolled 30 subjects with upper-limb deficits due to stroke of at least 6 mo duration and with a Motor Power Assessment grade of 3 or less. Over 3 wk, 18 sessions of robot-assisted task-specific therapy were delivered with the use of a robotic exercise device that simulates a conventional therapy known as skateboard therapy.
Primary outcome measures included reliable, validated impairment and disability measures of upper-limb motor function. Statistically significant improvements were observed for severely impaired participants when we compared baseline and posttreatment outcomes (p < 0.05).
These results are important because they indicate that improvement is not limited to those with moderate impairments but is possible among severely impaired chronic stroke patients as well. Moderately and severely impaired patients in our study were able to tolerate a massed-practice therapy paradigm with intensive, frequent, and repetitive treatment. This information is useful in determining the optimal target population, intensity, and duration of robotic therapy and sample size for a planned larger trial.