In this issue of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Jessica McCabe and colleagues report findings from their methodologically sound, dose-matched clinical trial in 39 patients beyond 6 months poststroke. In this phase II trial, the effects of 60 treatment sessions, each involving 3.5 hours of intensive practice plus either 1.5 hours of functional electrical stimulation (FES) or a shoulder-arm robotic therapy, were compared with 5 hours of intensive daily practice alone. Although no significant between-group differences were found on the primary outcome measure of Arm Motor Ability Test and the secondary outcome measure of Fugl-Meyer Arm motor score, 10% to 15% within-group therapeutic gains were on the Arm Motor Ability Test and Fugl-Meyer Arm. These gains are clinically meaningful for patients with stroke. However, the underlying mechanisms that drive these improvements remain poorly understood. The approximately $1000 cost reduction per patient calculated for the use of motor learning (ML) methods alone or combined with FES, compared with the combination of ML and shoulder-arm robotics, further emphasizes the need for cost considerations when making clinical decisions about selecting the most appropriate therapy for the upper paretic limb in patients with chronic stroke.
Kwakkel, G., van Wegen, E. E. H., & Meskers, C. G. M. (2015). Invited Commentary on Comparison of Robotics, Functional Electrical Stimulation, and Motor Learning Methods for Treatment of Persistent Upper Extremity Dysfunction After Stroke: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 96(6), 991-993. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2015.02.004