A better understanding of the neural substrates that underlie motor recovery after stroke has led to the development of innovative rehabilitation strategies and tools that incorporate key elements of motor skill relearning, that is, intensive motor training involving goal-oriented repeated movements. Robotic devices for the upper limb are increasingly used in rehabilitation. Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these devices in reducing motor impairments, but less so for the improvement of upper limb function. Other studies have begun to investigate the benefits of combined approaches that target muscle function (functional electrical stimulation and botulinum toxin injections), modulate neural activity (noninvasive brain stimulation), and enhance motivation (virtual reality) in an attempt to potentialize the benefits of robot-mediated training. The aim of this paper is to overview the current status of such combined treatments and to analyze the rationale behind them.
Significant advances have been made in the management of stroke (including prevention, acute management, and rehabilitation); however cerebrovascular diseases remain the third most common cause of death and the first cause of disability worldwide [1–6]. Stroke causes brain damage, leading to loss of motor function. Upper limb (UL) function is particularly reduced, resulting in disability. Many rehabilitation techniques have been developed over the last decades to facilitate motor recovery of the UL in order to improve functional ability and quality of life [7–10]. They are commonly based on principles of motor skill learning to promote plasticity of motor neural networks. These principles include intensive, repetitive, task-oriented movement-based training [11–19]. A better understanding of the neural substrates of motor relearning has led to the development of innovative strategies and tools to deliver exercise that meets these requirements. Treatments mostly target the neurological impairment (paresis, spasticity, etc.) through the activation of neural circuits or by acting on peripheral effectors. Robotic devices provide exercises that incorporate key elements of motor learning. Advanced robotic systems can offer highly repetitive, reproducible, interactive forms of training for the paretic limb, which are quantifiable. Robotic devices also enable easy and objective assessment of motor performance in standardized conditions by the recording of biomechanical data (i.e., speed, forces) [20–22]. This data can be used to analyze and assess motor recovery in stroke patients [23–26]. Since the 1990s, many other technology-based approaches and innovative pharmaceutical treatments have also been developed for rehabilitation, including virtual reality- (VR-) based systems, botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) injections, and noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) (Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)). There is currently no high-quality evidence to support any of these innovative interventions, despite the fact that some are used in routine practice . By their respective mechanisms of action, each of these treatments could potentiate the effects of robotic therapy, leading to greater improvements in motor capacity. The aim of this paper is to review studies of combined treatments based on robotic rehabilitation and to analyze the rationale behind such approaches.[…]
In the western world, stroke has been identified as the leading cause of disability in adults. Impairment to the arm/hand and depressive symptoms seem to be among the most frequent resultants of stroke. This article describes a collaborative occupational therapy and music therapy intervention for post-stroke arm/hand recovery. The intervention itself combines principles of music therapy with tablet technology and functional electrical stimulation. The implementation of this novel intervention, described in this clinical case report, has implications for benefits to physical and motivational aspects of rehabilitation. Recommendations for further research of this intervention are also discussed.
This retrospective clinical case report will examine the implementation of a novel intervention combining a Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) protocol with an iPad application. A 74-year-old female retired pianist and Professor of Music was admitted to a rehabilitation hospital following a left pontine stroke. On assessment, she was unable to use her right upper limb functionally. Conventional occupational therapy commenced soon after admission and consisted of functional retraining, including FES to the wrist and finger extensors. At week 4, the Registered Music Therapist (RMT) and Occupational Therapist (OT) collaborated to commence a trial of forearm FES in combination with an iPad-based music making application; ThumbJam. This application was used to encourage the patient to participate in touch sensitive musical improvisation using the affected hand in an attempt to promote engagement in complex motor patterns and non-verbal expression. Within 3 weeks, the patient was able to use ThumbJam without the FES, progressed to the keyboard in 4 weeks and has since commenced independent scales on the piano at home (21 weeks), as well as successful use of the upper limb in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). On follow up (7 months), the patient reflected on the motivating elements of the intervention that helped her to achieve a functional outcome in her upper limb. This retrospective clinical case report will review the evidence with regard to FES and music therapy, outline the treatment protocol used and make recommendations for future research of “FES+ThumbJam” in upper limb stroke rehabilitation.[…]
Stroke is the leading cause of serious and long-term disability worldwide. Some studies have shown that motor imagery (MI) based BCI has a positive effect in poststroke rehabilitation. It could help patients promote the reorganization processes in the damaged brain regions. However, offline motor imagery and conventional online motor imagery with feedback (such as rewarding sounds and movements of an avatar) could not reflect the true intention of the patients. In this study, both virtual limbs and functional electrical stimulation (FES) were used as feedback to provide patients a closed-loop sensorimotor integration for motor rehabilitation. The FES system would activate if the user was imagining hand movement of instructed side. Ten stroke patients (7 male, aged 22-70 years, mean 49.5+-15.1) were involved in this study. All of them participated in BCI-FES rehabilitation training for 4 weeks.The average motor imagery accuracies of the ten patients in the last week were 71.3%, which has improved 3% than that in the first week. Five patients’ Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) scores have been raised. Patient 6, who has have suffered from stroke over two years, achieved the greatest improvement after rehabilitation training (pre FMA: 20, post FMA: 35). In the aspect of brain patterns, the active patterns of the five patients gradually became centralized and shifted to sensorimotor areas (channel C3 and C4) and premotor area (channel FC3 and FC4).In this study, motor imagery based BCI and FES system were combined to provided stoke patients with a closed-loop sensorimotor integration for motor rehabilitation. Result showed evidences that the BCI-FES system is effective in restoring upper extremities motor function in stroke. In future work, more cases are needed to demonstrate its superiority over conventional therapy and explore the potential role of MI in poststroke rehabilitation.
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is important in gait rehabilitation for patients with dropfoot. Since there are time-varying velocities during FES-assisted walking, it is difficult to achieve a good movement performance during walking. To account for the time-varying walking velocities, seven poststroke subjects were recruited and fuzzy logic control and a linear model were applied in FES-assisted walking to enable intensity- and duration-adaptive stimulation (IDAS) for poststroke subjects with dropfoot. In this study, the performance of IDAS was evaluated using kinematic data, and was compared with the performance under no stimulation (NS), FES-assisted walking triggered by heel-off stimulation (HOS), and speed-adaptive stimulation. A larger maximum ankle dorsiflexion angle in the IDAS condition than those in other conditions was observed. The ankle plantar flexion angle in the IDAS condition was similar to that of normal walking. Improvement in the maximum ankle dorsiflexion and plantar flexion angles in the IDAS condition could be attributed to having the appropriate stimulation intensity and duration. In summary, the intensity- and duration-adaptive controller can attain better movement performance and may have great potential in future clinical applications.
Stroke is a leading cause of disability in the lower limb, such as dropfoot (1). A typical cause of dropfoot is muscle weakness, which results in a limited ability to lift the foot voluntarily and an increased risk of falls (2–4). Great effort is made toward the recovery of walking ability for poststroke patients with dropfoot, such as ankle–foot orthoses (5), physical therapy (6), and rehabilitation robot (7).
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a representative intervention to correct dropfoot and to generate foot lift during walking (8, 9). The electrical pulses were implemented via a pair of electrodes to activate the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle and to increase the ankle dorsiflexion angle. The footswitch or manual switch was used to time the FES-assisted hemiplegic walking in previous studies, while they were only based on open-loop architectures. The output parameters of the FES required repeated manual re-setting and could not achieve an adaptive adjustment during walking (10, 11). Some researchers have found that the maximum ankle dorsiflexion angle by using FES with a certain stimulation intensity had individual differences due to the varying muscle tone and residual voluntary muscle activity and varied during gait cycles (12, 13). If the stimulation intensity was set to a constant value during the whole gait cycle, the result could be that the muscle fatigues rapidly (14). Another important problem was that the FES using fixed stimulation duration from the heel-off event to the heel-strike event would affect the ankle plantar flexion angle (15, 16).
Closed-loop control was an effective way to adjust the stimulation parameters automatically, and several control techniques have been proposed (17, 18). Negård et al. applied a PI controller to regulate the stimulation intensity and obtain the optimal ankle dorsiflexion angle during the swing phase (19). A similar controller was also used in Benedict et al.’s study, and the controller was tested in simulation experiments (20). Cho et al. used a brain–computer interface to detect a patient’s motion imagery in real time and used this information to control the output of the FES (21). Laursen et al. used the electromechanical gait trainer Lokomat combined with FES to correct the foot drop problems for patients, and there were significant improvements in the maximum ankle dorsiflexion angles compared to the pre-training evaluations (22). There were also several studies that used trajectory tracking control to regulate the output and regulate the pulse width and pulse amplitude of the stimulation (23). The module was based on an adaptive fuzzy terminal sliding mode control and fuzzy logic control (FLC) to determine the stimulation output and force the ankle joint to track the reference trajectories. In their study, FES applied to TA was triggered before the heel-off event. Because the TA activation has been proven to occur after the heel-off event and the duration of the TA activation changed with the walking speed (24, 25), a time interval should be implemented after the heel-off event (26). In Thomas et al.’s study, the ankle angle trajectory of the paretic foot was modulated by an iterative learning control method to achieve the desired foot pitch angles (27). The non-linear relationship between the FES settings and the ankle angle influenced the responses of the ankle motion (28). FLC represents a promising technology to handle the non-linearity and uncertainty without the need for a mathematical model of the plant, which has been widely used in robotic control (29). Ibrahim et al. used FLC to regulate the stimulation intensity of the FES (30), and the same control was used on the regulation of the stimulation duration to obtain a maximum knee extension angle in Watanabe et al.’s study (31). However, most closed-loop controls adjust only one stimulation parameter, and few FES controls considered both varying the stimulation intensity and duration while accounting for the changing walking velocities.
In the present study, an intensity- and duration-adaptive FES was established, the FLC and a linear model were used to regulate the stimulation intensity and duration, respectively. The performance of the intensity- and duration-adaptive stimulation (IDAS) was compared with those of stimulation triggered by no stimulation (NS), heel-off stimulation (HOS), and speed-adaptive stimulation (SAS) for poststroke patients walking on a treadmill. The objective of this study is to find an appropriate FES control strategy to realize a more adaptive ankle joint motion for poststroke subjects.[…]
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) for patients with stroke and foot drop is an alternative to ankle foot orthoses. Characteristics of FES responders and non-responders have not been clarified.
1. To investigate the effects of treatment with FES on patients with stroke and foot drop. 2. To determine which factors may relate to responders and non-responders.
Multicenter, non-randomized, prospective study.
Multicenter clinical trial.
Participants, who experienced foot drop resulting from stroke, greater than 20 years old, and could provide consent to participate, were enrolled from hospitals between January 2013 and September 2015 and performed rehabilitation with FES.
Stroke Impairment Assessment Set Foot-Pat Test (SIAS-FP), Fugl-Meyer Assessment for Lower Extremity (FMA-LE), modified Ashworth scale (MAS) for ankle joint dorsiflexion and plantar flexion muscles, range of motion (ROM) for ankle joint, 10-m walking test (10mWT), timed up & go test (TUG), and 6-minute walking test (6MWT) were evaluated pre- and post-intervention. Age, sex, type of stroke, onset times of stroke, paretic side, Brunnstrom stage of the lower extremity (Br. stage-LE), functional independent measure (FIM), functional ambulation category (FAC), post-stroke months, number of interventions, total hours of interventions, and whether a brace was used were extracted from patients’ medical records and collected on the physiological examination day.
Main Outcome Measurements
We examined 10mWT and age, sex, type of stroke, onset times of stroke, paretic side, Br. stage-LE, FIM, FAC, post-stroke months, number of interventions, total hours of interventions, whether a brace was used, SIAS-FP, FMA-LE, MAS, ROM, TUG, and 6MWT before intervention. We divided participants into non-responders and responders with a change in 10mWT of <0.1 and ≧0.1 m/s, respectively. Single and multiple regression analyses were used for data analysis. Additionally, we compared the changes between groups.
Fifty-eight responders and 43 non-responders were enrolled. The between-group differences, compared for changes between pre- and post-intervention, were significant in terms of changes in SIAS-FP (P=.02), 10mWT (P<.001), 10-m gait steps (P<.001), TUG (P=.04), and 6MWT (P=.006). In the adjusted regression model, sex (OR, 3.92; 95% CI, 1.426–12.25; P=.007), number of interventions (OR, 1.028; 95% CI, 1.003–1.070; P=.03), and active ankle joint dorsiflexion ROM (OR, 1.047; 95% CI, 1.014–1.088; P=.005) remained significant.
The factors related to 10mWT showing changes beyond the minimally clinically important difference were found to be patient sex, number of interventions, and active ankle joint dorsiflexion ROM before intervention. When Patients with stroke who are greater active ankle joint ROM in female, use FES positively, they may benefit more from using FES.
Uzo Igwegbe, PT, MPT, fitting a stroke survivor with the thigh component of the Bioness L300 Go, targeted at stimulating the L hamstrings to minimize L knee hyperextension in stance during ambulation.
By Uzo Igwegbe, PT, MPT
Foot drop, a gait abnormality, is an insufficient ability to dorsiflex or clear the foot/feet during the swing phase of gait, causing an increased risk for stumbling, falls, or injury. In a normal gait cycle, initial foot contact occurs with the heel; however, an individual with foot drop may drag the foot and/or make initial contact with the forefoot or foot flat. To compensate they may excessively flex the hip and knee, or circumduct the affected limb, or increase time spent in swing phase of the affected extremity.
The cause of drop foot is due to damage to the common fibular (peroneal) nerve (inclusive of the sciatic nerve), weakness or paralysis of the tibialis anterior, extensor halluces longus and extensor digitorum longus. Foot drop is associated with cerebrovascular accident/stroke, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, spinal stenosis, disc herniation, poliomyelitis, diabetes mellitus, Charcot-Marie-Foot Disease, muscular dystrophy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or direct injury to the peroneal nerve.
Ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) and Functional Electric Stimulation (FES) technologies are used in the management and treatment of drop foot in physical therapy. These two approaches strive to facilitate a natural gait with increased speed, improved balance, confidence, safety, and independence with ambulation and functional mobility.
Product ResourcesThe following companies provide products to treat ankle injuries, foot drop and other aspects of stroke and neurological rehabilitation:
Ankle foot orthotics, the most common approach used, support neutral foot position to facilitate clearance during swing and provide ankle stability during loading response.1 AFOs are either off the shelf (for short-term use) or custom made from a cast (for complex cases or long-term use). These L-shaped braces are worn in footwear and, in most cases, a larger shoe size of one half to a full shoe size may be required due to the bulk of the orthosis. To obtain an AFO, a correct foot drop diagnosis by the therapist/physician and a physician’s AFO prescription is needed to proceed with a comprehensive assessment, with recommendations of treatment options from a licensed orthotist. A cast impression of the foot and leg is done for custom AFO. Follow-up appointments are done after reception of the AFO for re-evaluation of fit and function. The AFOs prescribed for drop foot include:
1) Posterior Leaf Spring AFO:This prefabricated, semi-rigid, polypropylene AFO supports individuals with mild foot drop and knee instability. It provides dorsiflexion during swing and controls plantarflexion at heel strike. Resistance to plantarflexion can be controlled by modifying the ankle and footplate trim lines. This AFO is the initial “go-to” brace for physical therapists because they are readily available, lightweight, inexpensive, and can provide initial ankle stability early in rehabilitation; however, there are newer, lighter, more comfortable, user-friendly and functional models available. Sources for these types of AFOs include Orthotic & Prosthetic Lab Inc, Webster Groves, Mo, which makes the Dynamic ROM AFO, and Orange County, Calif-headquartered, Össur Americas, which offers a prefabricated, polypropylene AFO Leaf Spring.
2) Solid AFO: This custom-fabricated plastic AFO prevents plantarflexion and prevents/limits dorsiflexion. It supports the ankle-foot complex in the coronal and sagittal planes in individuals with complete or nearly complete loss of dorsiflexion and mild to moderate knee hyperextension. Although bulky, it provides significant ankle support. It is contraindicated in individuals with fluctuating edema due to its rigid structure. Its bulk, difficulty obtaining properly fitted footwear, and general discomfort due to heat generated from continuous use can be barriers to utilization. One source for these devices is Kiser’s Orthotic and Prosthetic Services Inc, Keene, NH, which manufactures its solid ankle AFO to help combat spasticity, help the toe to clear, and prevent the Achilles tendon from tightening.
3) Free Motion Articulating AFO: The ankle joint here is activated, so the individual must have active ankle motion. It is commonly prescribed for individuals with some dorsiflexion, but who still need frontal plane stability. It is not recommended for patients with significant quadriceps weakness. Among the products available in this category is the Exos Free Motion Ankle from DJO Global Inc, Vista, Calif; a prefabricated AFO made to be moldable, adjustable, and can be custom fit. Becker Orthopedic, Troy, Mich, also offers a plastic AFO with articulating ankle, which can be used with a variety of the company’s thermoplastic ankle joints and posterior stops.
4) Short Leg AFO with Fixed Hinge: A good option for people who have flatfoot and drop foot, this AFO holds the foot at 90 degrees to the lower leg and controls unwanted inward rotation of the foot, which is common in stroke and Charcot-Marie Tooth patients. It is relatively light and easily fits footwear. A disadvantage of this brace, and the solid AFO, is its failure to provide a natural gait. Among the sources that offer this type of orthoses is New Linox, Ill-headquartered Rinella Orthotics & Prosthetics Inc.
5) Dorsiflexion Assist AFO: This has a spring-like hinge which assists the ankle with dorsiflexion as the foot comes off the ground for those with mild to moderate drop foot, and a flat or unstable foot as it offers a more natural gait pattern. The short lower leg length of this brace and the Short Leg AFO fails to provide adequate support in people over 6 feet or 225 pounds.
6) Plantarflexion Stop AFO: This brace prevents plantarflexion and has a hinge that facilitates normal dorsiflexion. Due to its cumbersome size, it is not utilized often but can be effective in people with more severe or spastic drop foot. Orthotic & Prosthetic Lab Inc provides plantarflexion stop AFOs that are designed to prevent unwanted plantarflexion while permitting free dorsiflexion. These AFOs are also available from Yakima, Wash-headquartered Yakima Orthotics & Prosthetics, and are designed to provide medial/lateral stability and plantarflexion/dorsiflexion control.
7) Energy Return AFO: This prefabricated, lightweight AFO is made of carbon graphite material. It provides assistance in dorsiflexion and energy return at push-off to propel the individual forward with plantarflexors. It provides stability only in the sagittal plane; however, a foot orthotic can be placed on the flat foot for frontal plane stability. In stroke and spina bifida patients, carbon-fiber AFOs increased walking speed and decreased energy cost when compared to unbraced walking.2 Research suggests that Energy Return AFOs facilitate plantar flexor muscle regeneration and prevents atrophy.3,4
Therapists have a number of choices in this category, including the ToeOff carbon composite dynamic response floor reaction AFO from Allard USA Inc, Rockaway, NJ; designed to keep the foot up during swing phase as well as provide soft heel strike and stability in stance. In addition to providing good toe-off to the wearer, the company recommends this AFO for foot drop in combination with no spasticity to moderate spasticity. The Ypsilon, also from Allard, is made to provide toe-off assistance to stable ankles while also allowing natural ankle movement, while the company’s BlueROCKER provides more rigid orthopedic control and was developed for bilateral foot drop. It can be used for foot drop in combination with no spasticity to severe spasticity, as well as partial foot amputations, impaired balance, and weakness or impairment in multiple leg muscle groups. The Peromax carbon fiber AFO and Trulife Matrix Max carbon fiber AFO are two other options available to the PT market in this category.
Users with big toe plantar ulcerations who are unable to cope with the plastic AFO due to skin breakdown from continuous pushing off the foot plate can have the addition of a custom foot orthotic, which can help offload those areas. Items like a heel lift can be placed under the foot plate to control for knee hyperextension. Despite their advantages, this AFO is not ideal for individuals with large calves or very tall individuals, as their long stride repeatedly overextend and weaken the AFO, or individuals with spastic drop foot or tight Achilles tendon, as the overactivity of the muscle pushes down on the foot plate, excessively hyperextending the knee.
Therapist is shown fitting a stroke survivor with the lower leg cuff of the Bioness L300 Go to stimulate the tibialis anterior muscle to improve L foot clearance during ambulation.
Performing the initial stimulation testing to determine whether the desired muscle activation is elicited prior to ambulation.
Functional Electrical Stimulation Management
The L300 Foot Drop System and WalkAide are approved medical devices for foot drop by the US Food and Drug Administration and are used in rehabilitation hospitals. The Bioness Legacy L300, L300 Go, and WalkAide consist of a lower leg cuff which holds electrode(s), providing low-level electrical stimulation to an intact peroneal nerve. The L300 Go and WalkAide use advance tilt sensor technology to monitor movement in all three kinematic planes, providing stimulation to lift the foot at the appropriate time. This makes foot clearance at various cadence and terrains feasible. They do not require a foot sensor like the Legacy L300, decreasing setup time and allowing users to ambulate with or without footwear. They can be used if knee instability and foot drop are present, promoting clinical application as majority of individuals present with both. Patients work alongside a clinician to obtain training for home use or utilize these technologies in the clinical setting.
The options available in the treatment and management of foot drop are numerous. The path to obtaining the right product involves a joint partnership between the patient, physical therapist, physician, and orthotist. The clinician must draw from the patient’s needs, abilities, facets of gait needing improvement, and special conditions specific to the patient to recommend the optimal product. In the choice between an AFO and FES device, the ultimate goal is to provide a product that will yield compliance, a normalized gait, and contribute to independent function. PTP
Uzo Igwegbe, PT, MPT, is outpatient physical therapist, senior, at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Cypress, located in Houston, Texas. She earned her master’s degree in physical therapy at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, in February 2010. She joined HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in January 2012, starting at the City View location in Fort Worth, Texas, working in both inpatient and outpatient settings, developing treatment plans for pulmonary, brain injury and orthopedics patients. Igwegbe joined the HealthSouth Cypress team in September 2013, where she primarily worked with outpatients with a wide range of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as post-orthopedic surgery patients. For more information, contact PTPEditor@medqor.com.
Farley J. Controlling drop foot: Beyond standard AFOs. Lower Extremity Review. 2009.
Danielsson A, Sunnerhagen K. Energy expenditure in stroke subjects looking with a carbon composite ankle foot orthosis. J Rehabil Med. 2004;36(4):165-168.
Wolf SI, Alimusaj M, Rettig O, Doderlein L. Dynamic assist by carbon fiber spring AFOs for patients with myelomeningocele. Gait Posture. 2008;28(1):175-177.
Meier RH, Ruthsatz DC, Cipriani D. Impact of AFO (ankle foot orthosis) design on calf circumference. Lower Extremity Review. 2014;6(10):29-35.
BACKGROUND:Foot drop is common gait impairment after stroke. Functional electrical stimulation (FES) of the ankle dorsiflexor muscles during the swing phase of gait can help correcting foot drop.
OBJECTIVE:To evaluate efficacy of additional novel FES system to conventional therapy in facilitating motor recovery in the lower extremities and improving walking ability after stroke.
METHODS:Sixteen stroke patients were randomly allocated to the FES group (FES therapy plus conventional rehabilitation program) (n = 8), and control group (conventional rehabilitation program) n = 8. FES was delivered for 30 min during gait to induce ankle plantar and dorsiflexion. Main outcome measures: gait speed using 10 Meter Walk Test (10 MWT), Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA), Berg Balance Scale (BBS) and modified Barthel Index (MBI).
RESULTS:Results showed a significant increase in gait speed in FES group (p < 0.001), higher than the minimal detected change. The FES group showed improvement in functional independence in the activities of daily living, motor recovery and gait performance.
CONCLUSIONS:The findings suggest that novel FES therapy combined with conventional rehabilitation is more effective on walking speed, mobility of the lower extremity, balance disability and activities of daily living compared to a conventional rehabilitation program only.
by Rebecca Martin, OTR/L, OTD, and Dennis Tom-Wigfield, PT, DPT
Investment in therapeutic technologies spans a continuum from elastic bands that cost a few dollars to room-sized mobility and balance systems that require construction build-outs and additional staff. Inhabiting the middle to upper range of this continuum are robotic devices and associated technology, which have become increasingly popular. Though these advanced technologies deserve a thorough cost-benefit analysis and review of competing products prior to purchase, the payoff they may provide in outcomes and efficiency can make the investment well worth the effort.
Among the facility-based technologies that have grabbed recent headlines, robot-assisted therapy is one that may be attractive to healthcare organizations. Robot-assisted therapy is an efficacious method to remediate disability associated with a wide variety of neurological disorders, most notably stroke and spinal cord injury (SCI). Intensity and repetition has been repeatedly demonstrated to be necessary for central nervous system excitation and associated motor learning.1Massed practice, or high-volume repetition, has been shown to improve muscle strength and voluntary function.2 Robot-assisted therapy has the capacity to provide high numbers of specific movements with support or guidance as necessary, ensuring optimal conditions for motor learning and recovery of function.3 Changes can be observed in as little as 6 weeks and peak around 12 weeks of training.4
Nearly all robotic devices include some sort of computer interface, even a virtual reality component, providing the patient and therapist with real-time feedback to improve performance. Robotic devices also allow for quantitative monitoring; measuring changes in strength, range of motion, and trajectory; and illuminating patient engagement trends, time, and effort.3 As the body of literature expands and supports its use, patients are seeking clinics with these resources. Robotic technology has the potential to align patients’ interests in validated strategies with clinics’ interests in efficiency and payor-supported interventions. Clinics have an opportunity to improve patient outcomes and efficiency with which they reach those outcomes by investing in robotic devices. This investment is not trivial, however, and better understanding of the capacity and scope of different devices will help to make sure that everyone’s resources are utilized appropriately.
Assessment: Get the Complete Picture
Before it begins to investigate and trial devices, a clinic should do a careful self-assessment. Clinics should have a good understanding of their patient factors and needs: demographics, diagnoses, and payor mix. Equally important, clinics should have a good understanding of how much of their own resources—money, time, and space—they have to spend. Although money is often considered to be the limiting factor in the acquisition of technology, time and space deserve equal consideration. Nothing would be worse than investing in the perfect body weight support (BWS) gait trainer, only to find that your ceiling is too low to accommodate it. Similarly, clinics should anticipate that therapists will need time outside patient care to learn the devices and that efficiency will suffer in the early learning phase. Clinics will want to consider existing technology and therapist-driven interventions when deciding on their specific needs. Clinics would benefit from having a clear plan for acquisition and incorporation of robotic technology into existing practices. Acquiring too much technology too quickly is a sure way to reduce integration of devices and waste valuable resources.
Stroke disease involves an increasing number of subjects due to the aging population. In clinical practice‚ the presence of widely accessible rehabilitative interventions to facilitate the patients’ motor recovery‚ especially in the early stages after injury when wider improvement can be gained‚ is crucial to reduce social and economical costs. The functional electrical stimulation (FES) has been investigated as a tool to promote locomotion ability in stroke patients. Particular attention was given to FES delivered during cycling‚ which is recognized as a safe and widely accessible way to provide a FES-based rehabilitative intervention in the most impaired subjects. In this chapter the neurophysiological basis of FES and its potential correlates to facilitate the long-term reorganization at both cortical and spinal level have been discussed. A discussion on clinical evidence and possible future direction is also proposed.
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