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Effectiveness of robot-assisted therapy on ankle rehabilitation – a systematic review

Mingming Zhang1*, T Claire Davies12 and Shane Xie1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

2 Department of Surgery, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2013, 10:30  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-10-30

Published: 21 March 2013



The aim of this study was to provide a systematic review of studies that investigated the effectiveness of robot-assisted therapy on ankle motor and function recovery from musculoskeletal or neurologic ankle injuries.


Thirteen electronic databases of articles published from January, 1980 to June, 2012 were searched using keywords ‘ankle*’, ‘robot*’, ‘rehabilitat*’ or ‘treat*’ and a free search in Google Scholar based on effects of ankle rehabilitation robots was also conducted. References listed in relevant publications were further screened. Eventually, twenty-nine articles were selected for review and they focused on effects of robot-assisted ankle rehabilitation.


Twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria and a total of 164 patients and 24 healthy subjects participated in these trials. Ankle performance and gait function were the main outcome measures used to assess the therapeutic effects of robot-assisted ankle rehabilitation. The protocols and therapy treatments were varied, which made comparison among different studies difficult or impossible. Few comparative trials were conducted among different devices or control strategies. Moreover, the majority of study designs met levels of evidence that were no higher than American Academy for Cerebral Palsy (CP) and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) level IV. Only one study used a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) approach with the evidence level being II.


All the selected studies showed improvements in terms of ankle performance or gait function after a period of robot-assisted ankle rehabilitation training. The most effective robot-assisted intervention cannot be determined due to the lack of universal evaluation criteria for various devices and control strategies. Future research into the effects of robot-assisted ankle rehabilitation should be carried out based on universal evaluation criteria, which could determine the most effective method of intervention. It is also essential to conduct trials to analyse the differences among different devices or control strategies.

Robot-assisted therapy; Ankle rehabilitation; Clinical effectiveness