Background: Children with cerebral palsy (CP) and acquired brain injury (ABI) often exhibit upper limb impairment, with repercussions in their daily activities. Robotic rehabilitation may promote their functional recovery, but evidence of its effectiveness is often based on qualitative functional scales. The primary aim of the present work was to assess movement precision, velocity, and smoothness using numerical indices from the endpoint trajectory of Armeo®Spring. Secondly, an investigation of the effectiveness of robotic rehabilitation in CP and ABI children was performed.
Methods: Upper limb functional changes were evaluated in children with CP (N=21) or ABI (N=22) treated with Armeo®Spring (20 45-minute sessions over 4 weeks) using clinical scales and numerical indices computed from the exoskeleton trajectory.
Results: Functional scales (i.e., QUEST and Melbourne) were sensitive to changes produced by the treatment for the whole study group and for the two etiology-based subgroups (improvements above Minimal Clinically Importance Difference). Significant improvement was also observed in terms of velocity, fluidity, and precision of the movement through the numerical indices of kinematic performance. Differences in the temporal evolution of the motor outcome were highlighted between the ABI and CP subgroups, pointing toward adopting different rehabilitative protocols in these two populations.
Conclusions: Robot-assisted upper limb rehabilitation seems to be a promising tool to promote and assess rehabilitation in children affected by acquired and congenital brain diseases.