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A robotic device now under study may help improve arm motion in stroke survivors. Worn on the biceps or triceps, this exoskeletal or "wearable" robot can help patients with neurologic conditions overcome chronic hemiparesis. An active joint brace for the elbow, this lightweight device is activated by the patient's own electromyographic activity.
Researchers tested the device in six stroke survivors with severe chronic hemiparesis who'd had limited use of an arm for at least 6 months. The patients had a total of 18 hours of exercise training with the device over about 6 weeks.
At the end of training, all of the patients could use the device to help them flex and extend their elbow. They also made significant gains in arm function while not wearing the device and experienced less muscle spasticity as well.
Researchers hope that the device, which is currently awaiting FDA approval, may someday help those with traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and other neurologic conditions causing chronic muscle weakness.
Stein J, et al., Electromyography-controlled exoskeletal upper-limb-powered orthosis for exercise training after stroke, American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, April 2007.
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