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Effects of robot-assisted upper limb rehabilitation in stroke patients: a systematic review with meta-analysis

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Technology-supported training is emerging as a solution to support therapists in their efforts providing high-intensity, repetitive, and task-specific treatment, in order to enhance the recovery process. The aim of this review is to assess the effectiveness of different robotic devices (end-effector and exoskeleton robots) in comparison with any other type of intervention. Furthermore, we aim to assess whether or not better improvements are obtained in the sub-acute phase after stroke onset than in the chronic phase. A research was conducted in the electronic bibliographic databases Cochrane, MEDLINE, and EMBASE. A total of 17 studies were included: 14 randomized controlled trials, 2 systematic reviews, and one meta-analysis. Fugl-Meyer and modified Ashworth scale were selected to measure primary outcomes, i.e., motor function and muscle tone. Functional independence measure and motor activity log were selected to measure secondary outcomes, i.e., activities of daily living. In comparison with conventional therapy, the robot-assisted rehabilitation is more effective in improving upper limb motor function recovery, especially in chronic stroke patients. No significant improvements are observed in the reduction of muscle tone or daily living activities. The present systematic review shows that the use of robotic devices can positively affect the recovery of arm function in patients with stroke.

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Correspondence to Rocco Salvatore Calabrò.

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Bertani, R., Melegari, C., De Cola, M.C. et al. Effects of robot-assisted upper limb rehabilitation in stroke patients: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Neurol Sci 38, 1561–1569 (2017).

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