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Robotic arm can improve motor control after stroke
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A computerized robotic arm trainer appears to be
more effective than electrical stimulation in improving motor control and
strength in stroke patients who are left with severe arm paralysis, German
The effectiveness of the Bi-Manu-Track robotic arm trainer (Reha-Stim Company,
Berlin), which helps the arm muscles to contract and flex, was compared with
electric stimulation, which applies electrical pulses to the affected limb.
Dr. Stefan Hesse, from Klinic Berlin, and associates recruited patients 4 to 8
weeks after stroke causing severe arm paralysis. Twenty-one patients were
randomly assigned to the arm trainer group and 22 to electrical stimulation
In addition to regular physical therapy, all of the patients received 20 minutes
of the intervention therapy every work day for 6 weeks, according to the report
in the medical journal Stroke. Patients in the arm trainer group performed 800
repetitions per session, while those in the electrical stimulation group
performed 60 to 80 wrist extensions per session.
At the end of the 6-week trial, the average motor function score was 24.6 in the
arm trainer group and 10.4 in the electrical stimulation group. After 3 months,
those in the arm trainer group still had higher motor scores (30.0 versus 16.6).
Average scores for upper limb muscle strength were also higher in the arm
trainer group -- 21.8 versus 6.8, respectively, at week 6, and 22.6 versus 6.9
at week 18. Muscle tone did not differ between groups.
The greater improvement achieved with the arm trainer "is probably attributable
to the greater number of repetitions and the bilateral approach," Hesse's group
concludes. They recommend confirmation of these findings in a larger,
multicenter clinical trial.
SOURCE: Stroke, September 2005.
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