Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Optimizing shoulder elevation assist rate in exoskeletal rehabilitation based on muscular activity indices: a clinical feasibility study.

BMC Neurology 2024 May 10
BACKGROUND: Restoring shoulder function is critical for upper-extremity rehabilitation following a stroke. The complex musculoskeletal anatomy of the shoulder presents a challenge for safely assisting elevation movements through robotic interventions. The level of shoulder elevation assistance in rehabilitation is often based on clinical judgment. There is no standardized method for deriving an optimal level of assistance, underscoring the importance of addressing abnormal movements during shoulder elevation, such as abnormal synergies and compensatory actions. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness and safety of a newly developed shoulder elevation exoskeleton robot by applying a novel optimization technique derived from the muscle synergy index.

METHODS: Twelve chronic stroke participants underwent an intervention consisting of 100 robot-assisted shoulder elevation exercises (10 × 10 times, approximately 40 min) for 10 days (4-5 times/week). The optimal robot assist rate was derived by detecting the change points using the co-contraction index, calculated from electromyogram (EMG) data obtained from the anterior deltoid and biceps brachii muscles during shoulder elevation at the initial evaluation. The primary outcomes were the Fugl-Meyer assessment-upper extremity (FMA-UE) shoulder/elbow/forearm score, kinematic outcomes (maximum angle of voluntary shoulder flexion and elbow flexion ratio during shoulder elevation), and shoulder pain outcomes (pain-free passive shoulder flexion range of motion [ROM] and visual analogue scale for pain severity during shoulder flexion). The effectiveness and safety of robotic therapy were examined using the Wilcoxon signed-rank sum test.

RESULTS: All 12 patients completed the procedure without any adverse events. Two participants were excluded from the analysis because the EMG of the biceps brachii was not obtained. Ten participants (five men and five women; mean age: 57.0 [5.5] years; mean FMA-UE total score: 18.7 [10.5] points) showed significant improvement in the FMA-UE shoulder/elbow/forearm score, kinematic outcomes, and pain-free passive shoulder flexion ROM (P < 0.05). The shoulder pain outcomes remained unchanged or improved in all patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The study presents a method for deriving the optimal robotic assist rate. Rehabilitation using a shoulder robot based on this derived optimal assist rate showed the possibility of safely improving the upper-extremity function in patients with severe stroke in the chronic phase.

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