Robot-assisted ankle rehabilitation significantly improves functional mobility in stroke patients, according to research from Northwestern University in Chicago.
Researchers customized a continuous passive motion machine to create a portable rehabilitation robot that is used for both passive stretching and active movement training. One-hour training sessions start with 20 minutes of stretching, in which the device moves the ankle through extreme plantar flexion and dorsiflexion until a specified peak resistance torque is reached. Next the robot is utilize for 30 minutes of voluntary movement training, in which subjects use ankle motion to play video games. Another 10 minutes of stretching finish the session.
In eight subjects who completed three sessions a week for six weeks, the investigators found significant improvements in active dorsiflexion and dorsiflexion strength, as well as on the Modified Ashworth Scale, the Stroke Rehabilitation Assessment of Movement, and the Berg Balance Test. Improvement trends were seen for passive dorsiflexion and the six minute walk test.
The findings were presented in August at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics.