Machines to support motor rehabilitation after stroke: 10 years of experience in Berlin

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Hesse et al.: Machines to support motor rehabilitation after stroke: 10 years of experience in Berlin

The group at Klinik Berlin/Charite University Hospital in Berlin, Germany, began studies to promote motor recovery after stroke in the early 1990s. Following the introduction of treadmill training with partial body-weight support, the group designed an electromechanical gait trainer, GT I, based on movable foot plates that relieve therapist effort (e.g., when assisting the movement of the paretic limbs) and intensify patient gait training (GT). Preliminary results of a recent multicenter trial of 155 acute stroke patients showed that the GT I effectively promotes gait ability and competence in activities of daily living. The experimental group received 20 min of GT and 25 min of physiotherapy (PT) and the control group received 45 min of PT every day for 4 weeks. The laboratory’s next step was the HapticWalker, a robotic walking simulator with freely programmable foot plates so that patients can, for example, additionally train for stair climbing and perturbations. The foot plates can be operated in full guidance or compliance control modes, thus reducing foot support according to the patient’s learning success. For the severely affected upper limb, the laboratory’s computerized arm trainer, called the Bi-Manu-Track, enables bilateral practice of forearm pronation/supination and wrist flexion/extension. Compared with electrical stimulation of the paretic wrist extensors, acute stroke patients with severe arm paresis (n = 44) had significantly more upper-limb muscle strength and control at the end of the 6-week intervention period and at follow-up. The laboratory’s most recent and cost-effective development, the Nudelholz, is a purely mechanical device that bilaterally trains the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints. It is intended for home therapy.

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