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Effects of a robot-assisted training of grasp and pronation/supination in chronic stroke: a pilot study

Olivier Lambercy12*, Ludovic Dovat1, Hong Yun3, Seng Kwee Wee3, Christopher WK Kuah3, Karen SG Chua3, Roger Gassert2, Theodore E Milner4, Chee Leong Teo1 and Etienne Burdet15

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

2 Rehabilitation Engineering Lab, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

3 Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore, Singapore

4 Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

5 Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2011, 8:63  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-8-63

Published: 16 November 2011



Rehabilitation of hand function is challenging, and only few studies have investigated robot-assisted rehabilitation focusing on distal joints of the upper limb. This paper investigates the feasibility of using the HapticKnob, a table-top end-effector device, for robot-assisted rehabilitation of grasping and forearm pronation/supination, two important functions for activities of daily living involving the hand, and which are often impaired in chronic stroke patients. It evaluates the effectiveness of this device for improving hand function and the transfer of improvement to arm function.


A single group of fifteen chronic stroke patients with impaired arm and hand functions (Fugl-Meyer motor assessment scale (FM) 10-45/66) participated in a 6-week 3-hours/week rehabilitation program with the HapticKnob. Outcome measures consisted primarily of the FM and Motricity Index (MI) and their respective subsections related to distal and proximal arm function, and were assessed at the beginning, end of treatment and in a 6-weeks follow-up.


Thirteen subjects successfully completed robot-assisted therapy, with significantly improved hand and arm motor functions, demonstrated by an average 3.00 points increase on the FM and 4.55 on the MI at the completion of the therapy (4.85 FM and 6.84 MI six weeks post-therapy). Improvements were observed both in distal and proximal components of the clinical scales at the completion of the study (2.00 FM wrist/hand, 2.55 FM shoulder/elbow, 2.23 MI hand and 4.23 MI shoulder/elbow). In addition, improvements in hand function were observed, as measured by the Motor Assessment Scale, grip force, and a decrease in arm muscle spasticity. These results were confirmed by motion data collected by the robot.


The results of this study show the feasibility of this robot-assisted therapy with patients presenting a large range of impairment levels. A significant homogeneous improvement in both hand and arm function was observed, which was maintained 6 weeks after end of the therapy.