Robots to help with stroke patients

Robots are being used to help in the rehabilitation of those who have had strokes.

According to boffins at the Department of Occupational Therapy in Kitasato University East Hospital in Kanagawa, Japan,  the so called “Robot Therapy”, in which stroke patients have their paralysed arms moved around by robots, combined with standard rehabilitation, can help improve arm and shoulder mobility.

In research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011, it was found that patients getting help from robots had shown a “marked improvement” in the motor function in shoulders, elbows and forearms.

The docs carried out their research with 60 stroke victims suffering from paralysis on one side of the body who had suffered a stroke in the previous four to eight weeks.

All received standard rehabilitation therapy from an occupational therapist.

The researchers split the group and gave half robotic therapy every day for six weeks, in sessions lasting 40 minutes. The other half spent the same amount of time working through a standard self-training program, which included stretches and exercises of their affected arm.

The robots were given five programs to help patients, one of which went by the name of “forward reach,” in which the robot helps patients extend their arms forward as if reaching for something in front of them.

The doctors claimed that they saw a marked improvement in these patients and it seems they could also be a better option than physical and occupational therapists who aren’t always available to provide care. They added that “self-training, if not done correctly, can result in pain and disability.”

“Robots, on the other hand, can carry out the repetitive movement exercise with exactly the right movement pattern to prevent misuse,” said Kayoko Takahashi, lead author of the study and clinician and research associate in the Department of Occupational Therapy in Kitasato University East Hospital in Kanagawa, Japan.

However he added that “further research using larger groups of patients was necessary to investigate the efficacy of such robotic exercise in more detail.”