Upper limb motor training using a Saebo (TM) orthosis is feasible for increasing task-specific practice in hospital after stroke
Assistive technologies have the potential to increase the amount of movement practice provided during inpatient stroke rehabilitation. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of using the Saebo-Flex™ device in a subacute stroke setting to increase task-specific practice for people with little or no active hand movement. The secondary aim was to collect preliminary data comparing hand/upper limb function between a control group that received usual rehabilitation and an intervention group that used, in addition, the Saebo-Flex™ device.
Nine inpatients (mean three months (median six weeks) post-stroke) participated in this feasibility study conducted in an Australian rehabilitation setting, using a randomised pre-test and post-test design with concealed allocation and blinded outcome assessment. In addition to usual rehabilitation, the intervention group received eight weeks of daily motor training using the Saebo-Flex™ device. The control group received usual rehabilitation (task-specific motor training) only. Participants were assessed at baseline (pre-randomisation) and at the end of the eight-week study period. Feasibility was assessed with respect to ease of recruitment, application of the device, compliance with the treatment programme and safety. Secondary outcome measures included the Motor Assessment Scale (upper limb items), Box and Block Test, grip strength and the Stroke Impact Scale.
Recruitment to the study was very slow because of the low number of patients with little or no active hand movement. Otherwise, the study was feasible in terms of being able to apply the Saebo-Flex™ device and compliance with the treatment programme. There were no adverse events, and a greater amount of upper limb rehabilitation was provided to the intervention group. While there were trends in favour of the intervention group, particularly for dexterity, no between-group differences were seen for any of the secondary outcomes.
This pilot feasibility study showed that the use of assistive technology, specifically the Saebo-Flex™ device, could be successfully used in a sample of stroke patients with little or no active hand movement. However, recruitment to the trial was very slow. The use of the Saebo-FlexTM device had variable results on outcomes, with some positive trends seen in hand function, particularly dexterity.