Task-specific repetitive training, a usual care in occupational therapy practice, and robotic-aided rehabilitation with bilateral practice are used to improve upper limb motor and task performance. The difference in effects of two strategies requires exploration. This study compared the impact of robotic-assisted therapy with bilateral practice (RTBP) and usual task-specific training facilitated by therapists on task and motor performance for stroke survivors.
Forty-three community-dwelling stroke survivors (20 males; 23 females; 53.3 ± 13.1 years; post-stroke duration 14.2 ± 10.9 months) were randomised into RTBP and usual care. All participants received a 10-minute per-protocol sensorimotor stimulation session prior to interventions as part of usual care. Primary outcome was different in the amount of use (AOU) and quality of movement (QOM) on the Motor Activity Log (MAL) scale at endpoint. Secondary outcomes were AOU and QOM scores at follow-up, and pre-post and follow-up score differences on the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) and surface electromyography (sEMG). Friedman and Mann-Whitney U tests were used to calculate difference.
There were no baseline differences between groups. Both conditions demonstrated significant within-group improvements in AOU-MAL and FMA scores following treatment (P < 0.05) and improvements in FMA scores at follow-up (P < 0.05). The training-induced improvement in AOU (30.0%) following treatment was greater than the minimal detectable change (16.8%) in the RTBP group. RTBP demonstrated better outcomes in FMA wrist score (P = 0.003) and sEMG of wrist extensor (P = 0.043) following treatment and in AOU (P < 0.001), FMA total score (P = 0.006), FMA wrist score (P < 0.001) and sEMG of wrist extensor (P = 0.017) at follow-up compared to the control group. Control group boost more beneficial effects on FMA hand score (P = 0.049) following treatment.
RTBP demonstrated superior upper limb motor and task performance outcomes compared to therapists-facilitated task training when both were preceded by a 10-minute sensorimotor stimulation session.