Background. Robot-assisted therapy provides high-intensity arm rehabilitation that can significantly reduce stroke-related upper extremity (UE) deficits. Motor improvement has been shown at the joints trained, but generalization to real-world function has not been profound.
Objective. To investigate the efficacy of robot-assisted therapy combined with therapist-assisted task training versus robot-assisted therapy alone on motor outcomes and use in participants with moderate to severe chronic stroke-related arm disability.
Methods. This was a single-blind randomized controlled trial of two 12-week robot-assisted interventions; 45 participants were stratified by Fugl-Meyer (FMA) impairment (mean 21 ± 1.36) to 60 minutes of robot therapy (RT; n = 22) or 45 minutes of RT combined with 15 minutes therapist-assisted transition-to-task training (TTT; n = 23). The primary outcome was the mean FMA change at week 12 using a linear mixed-model analysis. A subanalysis included the Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT) and Stroke Impact Scale (SIS), with significance P<.05.
Results. There was no significant 12-week difference in FMA change between groups, and mean FMA gains were 2.87 ± 0.70 and 4.81 ± 0.68 for RT and TTT, respectively. TTT had greater 12-week secondary outcome improvements in the log WMFT (−0.52 ± 0.06 vs −0.18 ± 0.06; P = .01) and SIS hand (20.52 ± 2.94 vs 8.27 ± 3.03; P = .03).
Conclusion. Chronic UE motor deficits are responsive to intensive robot-assisted therapy of 45 or 60 minutes per session duration. The replacement of part of the robotic training with nonrobotic tasks did not reduce treatment effect and may benefit stroke-affected hand use and motor task performance.