Effects of a Robot-Assisted Arm Training Plus Hand Functional Electrical Stimulation on Recovery After Stroke: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Published:October 31, 2019DOI:



      To compare the effects of unilateral, proximal arm robot-assisted therapy combined with hand functional electrical stimulation with intensive conventional therapy for restoring arm function in survivors of subacute stroke.


      This was a single-blinded, randomized controlled trial.


      Inpatient rehabilitation university hospital.


      Patients (N=40) diagnosed as having ischemic stroke (time since stroke <8wk) and upper limb impairment were enrolled.


      Participants randomized to the experimental group received 30 sessions (5 sessions/wk) of robot-assisted arm therapy and hand functional electrical stimulation (RAT+FES). Participants randomized to the control group received a time-matched intensive conventional therapy.

      Main Outcome Measures

      The primary outcome was arm motor recovery measured with the Fugl-Meyer Motor Assessment. Secondary outcomes included motor function, arm spasticity, and activities of daily living. Measurements were performed at baseline, after 3 weeks, at the end of treatment, and at 6-month follow-up. Presence of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) was also measured at baseline.


      Both groups significantly improved all outcome measures except for spasticity without differences between groups. Patients with moderate impairment and presence of MEPs who underwent early rehabilitation (<30d post stroke) demonstrated the greatest clinical improvements.


      RAT+FES was no more effective than intensive conventional arm training. However, at the same level of arm impairment and corticospinal tract integrity, it induced a higher level of arm recovery.


      List of abbreviations:

      BI (Barthel Index), FES (functional electrical stimulation), FMA-UE (Fugl-Meyer Assessment–Upper Extremity), ICT (intensive conventional therapy), MCID (minimal clinically important difference), MEP (motor-evoked potential), RAT (robot-assisted arm therapy), TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), WMFT (Wolf Motor Function Test)
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