Partial paralysis: Robot-aided therapy to enhance mobility

London, Jan 17 (IANS): Across the world, strokes are one of the most frequent causes of paresis or partial paralysis.

In a significant study, researchers first examined whether robot-assisted therapy can help stroke patients better than conventional therapies.

They found that robot-aided therapy may help the most severely affected people with arm paresis.

The researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH), compared the progress of patients with arm paresis in two different forms of therapy - conventional physiotherapy/occupational therapy and robot-aided therapy.

They found that the robot-assisted therapy leads on average to slightly better results than the conventional therapy.

“Physiotherapy or occupational therapy can restore a certain degree of mobility.
However, a patient with severe paresis, for instance of an arm, can only recover limited function through these therapeutic exercises,” said Robert Riener, professor in the sensory-motor systems lab at ETH.

“Patients who had more severe paresis made far greater progress with the help of the robot," explained Riener.

One reason could be that the robot can be adjusted to the individual patient.

It assists arm movements, which means that even patients with severe paresis can carry out the exercises efficiently, said the study published in the medical journal Lancet Neurology.

“The fact that we have achieved this with the help of the robot is wonderful and gives rise to hope," said Verena Klamroth, senior scientist with Riener and the main author of the study.

The study revealed that the robotic therapy produced better results in terms of sensory-motor function, but conventional therapy in terms of building strength.

The researchers do, however, see a way of overcoming this shortcoming of robotic therapy in future.

“The fact that even the most severely afflicted stroke patients now have a chance of therapy is really completely innovatory,” added Klamroth.



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