Feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a combined virtual reality, robotics and electrical stimulation intervention in upper extremity stroke rehabilitation

J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2021 Apr 14;18(1):61. doi: 10.1186/s12984-021-00851-1.


Background: Approximately 80% of individuals with chronic stroke present with long lasting upper extremity (UE) impairments. We designed the perSonalized UPper Extremity Rehabilitation (SUPER) intervention, which combines robotics, virtual reality activities, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES). The objectives of our study were to determine the feasibility and the preliminary efficacy of the SUPER intervention in individuals with moderate/severe stroke.

Methods: Stroke participants (n = 28) received a 4-week intervention (3 × per week), tailored to their functional level. The functional integrity of the corticospinal tract was assessed using the Predict Recovery Potential algorithm, involving measurements of motor evoked potentials and manual muscle testing. Those with low potential for hand recovery (shoulder group; n = 18) received a robotic-rehabilitation intervention focusing on elbow and shoulder movements only. Those with a good potential for hand recovery (hand group; n = 10) received EMG-triggered NMES, in addition to robot therapy. The primary outcomes were the Fugl-Meyer UE assessment and the ABILHAND assessment. Secondary outcomes included the Motor Activity Log and the Stroke Impact Scale.

Results: Eighteen participants (64%), in either the hand or the shoulder group, showed changes in the Fugl-Meyer UE or in the ABILHAND assessment superior to the minimal clinically important difference.

Conclusions: This indicates that our personalized approach is feasible and may be beneficial in improving UE function in individuals with moderate to severe impairments due to stroke.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03903770. Registered 4 April 2019. Registered retrospectively.

Keywords: Electrical stimulation; Rehabilitation; Robotics; Stroke; Upper extremity; Virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Robotics / methods*
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology
  • Virtual Reality*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03903770