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Robots help stroke patients

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Stroke is lethal. If a patient is lucky enough to survive, he may end up losing his ability to move. Now a study suggests that robots may be enlisted to help move his limbs.

The study led by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and published online April 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that stroke survivors can regain limb movement long after an injury.

Some studies suggested that long term physical therapy would not help if the treatment is initiated six months after a stroke.  The current study suggests with robotic aids, six months are not an issue.

The study involved 127 veterans who suffered a stroke that resulted in moderate or severe disability in an arm. They started the intensive therapy with specially trained personnel and newly developed robotic aids six months after strokes.

Albert Lo, assistant professor of neurology at Brown University and colleagues, compared all the patients in three groups, one receiving care from robots designed by the Massachusetts institute of Technology, one receiving care from a therapist and the third one receiving general care but no special stroke therapy for their arms.

After 12-weeks of therapy, the patients aided by the robots experienced statistically significant improvements in their quality of life and reported greater improvement in their upper-limb function compared with those who received no special stroke therapy.

"We believe that by gaining more function and better control of their affected arms, patients were able to get out and do more, translating their motor benefits into additional meaningful social activity and participation," Lo said in a press release from Brown University.

"There are about 6.4 million stroke patients in the U.S. with chronic deficits. We've shown that with the right therapy, they can see improvements in movement, everyday function and quality of life," Lo added. "This is giving stroke survivors new hope."

By Jimmy Downs

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