Stroke rehabilitation: Technological support with robots & functional electrical stimulation put to

Austrian Institute for Health Technology Assessment (AIHTA) analysed clinical benefit of new methods as an addition to standard therapies
VIENNA - April 14, 2021 - PRLog -- Some robots can create an additional clinical benefit in the rehabilitation of stroke patients as a supplement to standard therapy. For another method, the functional electrical stimulation of individual muscles or muscle groups, such an additional benefit cannot be proven. These are the results of a study based on scientific evidence that the Austrian Institute for Health Technology Assessment (AIHTA) conducted together with a German guideline working group and has now published. After a critical analysis of over 53 studies, the AIHTA therefore recommends a health economic evaluation before the use of these supplemental therapy options.

Every year in Austria alone, life changes abruptly for 25,000 people: they suffer a stroke, and many of them subsequently have paralysis of the lower or upper extremities. Prompt rehabilitation measures, however, often help the patients to regain full mobility, with walking and everyday activities being primary rehabilitation goals. However, good rehabilitation programmes are resource-intensive and great hope is therefore placed in a supplementation with robots or functional electrical stimulation of the muscles, among other therapies. To what extent these measures achieve a real additional clinical benefit, however, has now been investigated by AIHTA together with a working group (ReMoS/ Rehabilitation of Mobility after Stroke - AG) of the Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany (AWMF).

The comprehensive analysis was based on a total of over 55 randomised clinical trials and a Cochrane Review. These studies examined the specific use of robot-assisted rehabilitation (RAR) and functional electrical stimulation (FES) in different therapy situations. "The range of available devices is extremely wide for both RAR and FES," comments Priv. Doz. Dr Claudia Wild, director of the AIHTA. "The expectations are correspondingly high, but unfortunately - as our study shows - they are only partially fulfilled. For example, we were able to determine an additional benefit for some RAR interventions in combination with standard therapy compared to standard therapy without RAR, but not for FES."

Original publication:

Goetz G, Walter M, Wohlhöfner K, Wittenberg H, Saal S, Stephan K M, Dohle C. Robotics and functional electrical stimulation for stroke rehabilitation: a systematic review of effectiveness and safety. AIHTA Project report No.128; 2020. Vienna: HTA Austria – Austrian Institute for Health Technology Assessment GmbH.

Austrian Institute for Health Technology Assessment

Priv. Doz. Dr. phil. Claudia Wild


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