BACKGROUND: Assistive and robotic training devices are increasingly used for rehabilitation of the hemiparetic arm after stroke, although applications for the wrist and hand are trailing behind. Furthermore, applying a training device in domestic settings may enable an increased training dose of functional arm and hand training. The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility and potential clinical changes associated with a technology-supported arm and hand training system at home for patients with chronic stroke.
METHODS: A dynamic wrist and hand orthosis was combined with a remotely monitored user interface with motivational gaming environment for self-administered training at home. Twenty-four chronic stroke patients with impaired arm/hand function were recruited to use the training system at home for six weeks. Evaluation of feasibility involved training duration, usability and motivation. Clinical outcomes on arm/hand function, activity and participation were assessed before and after six weeks of training and at two-month follow-up.
RESULTS: Mean System Usability Scale score was 69 % (SD 17 %), mean Intrinsic Motivation Inventory score was 5.2 (SD 0.9) points, and mean training duration per week was 105 (SD 66) minutes. Median Fugl-Meyer score improved from 37 (IQR 30) pre-training to 41 (IQR 32) post-training and was sustained at two-month follow-up (40 (IQR 32)). The Stroke Impact Scale improved from 56.3 (SD 13.2) pre-training to 60.0 (SD 13.9) post-training, with a trend at follow-up (59.8 (SD 15.2)). No significant improvements were found on the Action Research Arm Test and Motor Activity Log.
CONCLUSIONS: Remotely monitored post-stroke training at home applying gaming exercises while physically supporting the wrist and hand showed to be feasible: participants were able and motivated to use the training system independently at home. Usability shows potential, although several usability issues need further attention. Upper extremity function and quality of life improved after training, although dexterity did not. These findings indicate that home-based arm and hand training with physical support from a dynamic orthosis is a feasible tool to enable self-administered practice at home. Such an approach enables practice without dependence on therapist availability, allowing an increase in training dose with respect to treatment in supervised settings.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study has been registered at the Netherlands Trial Registry (NTR): NTR3669 .