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Pilot study of a robotic protocol to treat shoulder subluxation in patients with chronic stroke

Carolin I Dohle12, Avrielle Rykman1, Johanna Chang3 and Bruce T Volpe3*

Author Affiliations

1 The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, White Plains, NY, USA

2 Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, USA

3 Robotics Research Laboratory, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY, USA

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2013, 10:88  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-10-88

Published: 5 August 2013



Shoulder subluxation is a frequent complication of motor impairment after stroke, leading to soft tissue damage, stretching of the joint capsule, rotator cuff injury, and in some cases pain, thus limiting use of the affected extremity beyond weakness. In this pilot study, we determined whether robotic treatment of chronic shoulder subluxation can lead to functional improvement and whether any improvement was robust.


18 patients with chronic stroke (3.9 ± 2.9 years from acute stroke), completed 6 weeks of robotic training using the linear shoulder robot. Training was performed 3 times per week on alternate days. Each session consisted of 3 sets of 320 repetitions of the affected arm, and the robotic protocol alternated between training vertical arm movements, shoulder flexion and extension, in an anti-gravity plane, and training horizontal arm movements, scapular protraction and retraction, in a gravity eliminated plane.


Training with the linear robot improved shoulder stability, motor power, and resulted in improved functional outcomes that were robust 3 months after training.


In this uncontrolled pilot study, the robotic protocol effectively treated shoulder subluxation in chronic stroke patients. Treatment of subluxation can lead to improved functional use of the affected arm, likely by increasing motor power in the trained muscles.

Stroke; Subluxation; Spasticity; Shoulder; Rehabilitation; Robotics