Robotics in neuro-rehabilitation
Objective: The aims of this study were to review robot-assisted motor and functional rehabilitation of the upper limb in patients with stroke and to outline possible clinical applications of robotics in neuro-rehabilitation.
Methods: Available active systems, with actuators driving the paretic arm, were sub-classified by scientific rationale and mechatronic structure as exoskeletons or operational-type machines (manipulators). Applicative studies were compared for indication of efficacy.
Results and conclusion: Clinical and biomechanical evidence available to date suggests substantial efficacy of robot-assisted neuro-rehabilitation in the recovery of the paretic arm after stroke, enabling longer dedicated training sessions with no additional work for the therapist. Further investigation of large samples of patients is required to define the relationship between disability and residual function, to provide shared criteria of evaluation of disability/outcome and protocols of rehabilitation, and to identify the expected future role and application of robotics in neuro-rehabilitation.