Deans' stroke musings

Changing stroke rehab and research worldwide now.Time is Brain!Just think of all the trillions and trillions of neurons that DIE each day because there are NO effective hyperacute therapies besides tPA(only 12% effective). I have 493 posts on hyperacute therapy, enough for researchers to spend decades proving them out. These are my personal ideas and blog on stroke rehabilitation and stroke research. Do not attempt any of these without checking with your medical provider. Unless you join me in agitating, when you need these therapies they won't be there.

What this blog is for:

Shortly after getting out of the hospital and getting NO information on the process or protocols of stroke rehabilitation and recovery I started searching on the internet and found that no other survivor received useful information. This is an attempt to cover all stroke rehabilitation information that should be readily available to survivors so they can talk with informed knowledge to their medical staff. It's quite disgusting that this information is not available from every stroke association and doctors group.
My back ground story is here:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Early Stroke Rehabilitation of the Upper Limb Assisted with an Electromyography-Driven Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation-Robotic Arm

Great, In 50 years this might make it to general practice, but until then you are screwed because your doctor never reads and implements research. Ask her/him when was the last time they themselves brought something new into the stroke practice.  I wonder if this would stop spasticity from developing in the arm? We'll never know.

Early Stroke Rehabilitation of the Upper Limb Assisted with an Electromyography-Driven Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation-Robotic Arm

imageQiuyang Qian1, imageXiaoling Hu1*, imageQian Lai1, imageStephanie C. Ng2, imageYongping Zheng1 and imageWaisang Poon2
  • 1Interdisciplinary Division of Biomedical Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 2Department of Surgery, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Background: Effective poststroke motor rehabilitation depends on repeated limb practice with voluntary efforts. An electromyography (EMG)-driven neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES)-robot arm was designed for the multi-joint physical training on the elbow, the wrist, and the fingers.
Objectives: To investigate the training effects of the device-assisted approach on subacute stroke patients and to compare the effects with those achieved by the traditional physical treatments.
Method: This study was a pilot randomized controlled trial with a 3-month follow-up. Subacute stroke participants were randomly assigned into two groups, and then received 20-session upper limb training with the EMG-driven NMES-robotic arm (NMES-robot group, n = 14) or the time-matched traditional therapy (the control, n = 10). For the evaluation of the training effects, clinical assessments including Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA), Modified Ashworth Score (MAS), Action Research Arm Test (ARAT), and Function Independence Measurement (FIM) were conducted before, after the rehabilitation training, and 3 months later. Session-by-session EMG parameters in the NMES-robot group, including normalized co-contraction Indexes (CI) and EMG activation level of target muscles, were used to monitor the progress in muscular coordination patterns.
Results: Significant improvements were obtained in FMA (full score and shoulder/elbow), ARAT, and FIM [P < 0.001, effect sizes (EFs) > 0.279] for both groups. Significant improvement in FMA wrist/hand was only observed in the NMES-robot group (P < 0.001, EFs = 0.435) after the treatments. Significant reduction in MAS wrist was observed in the NMES-robot group after the training (P < 0.05, EFs = 0.145) and the effects were maintained for 3 months. MAS scores in the control group were elevated following training (P < 0.05, EFs > 0.24), and remained at an elevated level when assessed 3 months later. The EMG parameters indicated a release of muscle co-contraction in the muscle pairs of biceps brachii and flexor carpi radialis and biceps brachii and triceps brachii, as well as a reduction of muscle activation level in the wrist flexor in the NMES-robot group.
Conclusion: The NMES-robot-assisted training was effective for early stroke upper limb rehabilitation and promoted independence in the daily living comparable to the traditional physical therapy. It could achieve higher motor outcomes at the distal joints and more effective release in muscle tones than the traditional therapy.
Clinical Trial Registration:, identifier NCT02117089; date of registration: April 10, 2014.


Stroke is one of the leading causes of permanent disability in adults (1). Approximately 80% stroke survivors regain their walking independence (2). However, less than 25% survivors could achieve some limited recovery on the upper limb function, and only around 5% of them could obtain complete functional recovery 6 months later after the onset (2, 3). Dysfunctions in the upper limb are a combination of muscle weakness, spasticity, and discoordination among different muscle groups (4, 5). Significant spontaneous motor recovery usually occurs within the first several weeks to 6 months after stroke, i.e., in the subacute period (6). Physical rehabilitation in this early period can optimize the spontaneous neural plasticity and motor responsiveness, and result in maximized motor outcomes (7, 8). In comparison with the rehabilitation treatment administrated in the chronic period (i.e., 6 months later after the onset), motor functions resorted in the subacute period are more likely to be generalized into functional activities in the daily life (9, 10). One of the major reasons is that the persons with subacute stroke have not been used to adopt the unaffected limb only for daily tasks as commonly observed in the chronic. The traditional rehabilitation treatments in early stage after stroke are usually conducted manually by human therapists, which are time consuming and labor demanding (5). It is challenging to the current medical and health-care system to provide adequate or intensive rehabilitation treatments to persons with subacute stroke, due to the lack of professional manpower in the physical therapy industry even in developed countries (11) and the expanding of stroke populations worldwide (3).
Effective motor restoration after stroke depends on repeated and intensive practice of the paralyzed limbs with voluntary efforts (7, 12, 13). Repetitive practice with high-intensity has been proven to speed up the process of motor restorations (6, 13). The involvement of voluntary effort from the residual neuromuscular pathways has been convinced to carry out better performance with higher efficiency when compared with the continuous passive motion trainings (14, 15). Coordinated upper limb practices among different joints, especially the involvement of the distal joints (e.g., the wrist and fingers) have also been found more effective to translate the motor improvements into meaningful limb functions than single joint practice (16). However, due to the overall muscle weakness in early stage after stroke and a delayed motor return at the distal joints in comparison with the proximal, it is always a difficulty for human therapists to instruct and support the coordinated upper limb motions with the proximal (i.e., the shoulder and the elbow) and distal joints (i.e., the wrist and the fingers) together in the clinical practice (17). New techniques are needed to assist in the manually conducted upper limb coordinating rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation robots can assist human therapists to conduct the intensive and repeated physical training with different numbers and sizes of electrical motors. Various robots have been designed for poststroke upper limb rehabilitation (1821). Among them, the robots with the involvement of voluntary efforts from the residual neuromuscular pathways demonstrated better rehabilitation effects than those with passive limb motions, i.e., the limb motions are entirely dominated by the machine (18). It has been found that physical trainings with passive motions only contributed to the temporary release of muscle spasticity. However, voluntary practice could improve the motor functions of the limb with longer sustainability (18, 22). Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is a technique that can generate limb movements by applying electrical current on the paretic muscles (23). Poststroke rehabilitation assisted with NMES has been found to effectively prevent muscle atrophy and improve muscle strength (23, 24), and the stimulation also evokes sensory feedback to the brain during muscle contraction to facilitate motor relearning (25). NMES can improve limb functions by limiting “learned disuse” that stroke survivors are gradually accustomed to managing their daily activities without using certain muscles, which has been considered as a significant barrier to maximize the recovery (26). However, NMES alone is hard to achieve desired accuracy in kinematics, such as speed and trajectories, as in the robot-assisted training (27).
In our previous works, we designed a series of voluntary intention-driven rehabilitation robotics for physical training at the elbow, the wrist, and fingers (22, 2831). Residual electromyography (EMG) from the paretic muscles was used to control the robots to provide assistive torques to the limb for desired motions (31, 32). Later, we integrated NMES into the EMG-driven robot as an intact system for wrist rehabilitation. It has been found that the combined assistance with both robot and NMES could reduce the excessive muscular activities at the elbow and improve the muscle activation levels related to the wrist in chronic stroke, which was absent in the pure robot-assisted training (31). Pure robot-assisted upper limb training also showed no superiority on motor improvements on chronic stroke in comparison with the traditional treatments in a reported randomized controlled trial (33). More recently, combined treatment with robot and NMES for the wrist by other research group also demonstrated more promising rehabilitation effectiveness in the upper limb motor recovery than pure robot training (34). However, most of the proposed devices are for single joint treatment, and the related trials were conducted on chronic stroke. We hypothesized that poststroke multi-joint coordinated training with both NMES and robot in the subacute stroke period could improve the muscular coordination in the whole upper limb and translate the motor improvements into daily functions. In this work, we developed an EMG-driven NMES-robotic arm for multi-joint coordinated training on the elbow, wrist, and fingers. The feasibility of the EMG-driven NMES-robotic arm assisted upper limb training on subacute stroke, and the training effectiveness were investigated through a pilot randomized controlled trial in comparison with the traditional upper limb physical rehabilitation.

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