Effects of therapy with a free-standing robotic exoskeleton on motor function and other health indicators in people with severe mobility impairment due to chronic stroke: A quasi-controlled study

J Rehabil Assist Technol Eng. 2021 Oct 23;8:20556683211045837. doi: 10.1177/20556683211045837. eCollection Jan-Dec 2021.


Introduction: Robotic exoskeletons facilitate therapy in upright postures. This study aimed to evaluate potential health-related effects of this therapy for people with severe mobility impairment due to chronic stroke.

Methods: This quasi-controlled trial with 12 weeks of twice weekly therapy in a free-standing exoskeleton, and 12 weeks follow up, included people dependent for mobility, with stroke at least 3 months prior. The primary outcome was lower limb motor function. A battery of secondary outcomes was evaluated.

Results: Nine participants were enrolled. There was no change in motor function. There was a significant between phase difference in level of independence with activities of daily living (median post-intervention change = 5, IQR = 0, 10, p = 0.01), and grip strength (affected limb) (median post-intervention change = 1, IQR = 0, 2, p = 0.03). A significant difference was found for quadriceps strength (affected limb) (median change in wait phase = 4, IQR = 2, 7.5, p = 0.01). Participants consistently reported positive perceptions of the therapy.

Conclusions: Therapy with a free-standing exoskeleton is acceptable to participants and can facilitate improvements in level of independence and grip strength. Restrictions regarding eligibility to use the device, may reduce the clinical application of this therapy for people with stroke.

Keywords: free-standing; neurorehabilitation; rehabilitation devices; robotic exoskeleton; stroke.