Robots boost rehab care for stroke victims

Rehabilitation robots can help stroke victims by identifying post-stroke impairments in patients and adjusting treatment regimens accordingly, according to researchers from the University of Calgary presenting this week at the third annual Canadian Stroke Congress. Such robots measure the limb position and limb movement of patients.

Overall, 185 patients participated in the research, which aims to specify and personalize treatments on a per-patient basis. Eighty-seven of the participants were recovering from a stroke, while the other 98 were not impacted by stroke.

The robot moved the impacted arm of each stroke-affected patient while the patient tried to match those movements with their other arm. Patients could only base movements using their good arm on feel of movements of the stroke-impacted arm, not vision.

"For years, therapists have known that limb awareness is very important to predicting a person's outcomes after stroke," lead researcher Sean Dukelow said in a statement. "Yet we have never been able to quantify it. Identifying theses deficits opens the door to the next step: how do we treat it?"

In August, research from Rice University, the University of Houston and TIRR Memorial Hermann began testing a noninvasive brain-machine interface for a robotic orthotic device to innovate upper-limb rehabilitation efforts. The researchers are using a $1.17 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the President's National Robotics Initiative to fund their efforts.

For years, hospitals have been using robots for surgery, although a recent review found that many facilities play up the benefits of such procedures via marketing jargon.

To learn more:
- read the announcement from the Canadian Stroke Network