Effectiveness of task-specific training using assistive devices and task-specific usual care on upper limb performance after stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Samantha G Rozevink*, Juha M Hijmans, Koen A Horstink, Corry K van der Sluis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

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PURPOSE: Task-specific rehabilitation is a key indicator for successful rehabilitation to improve the upper limb performance after stroke. Assistive robotic and non-robotic devices are emerging to provide rehabilitation therapy; however, the effectiveness of task-specific training programs using assistive training devices compared with task-specific usual care training has not been summarized yet. Therefore, the effectiveness of task-specific training using assistive arm devices (TST-AAD) compared with task-specific usual care (TSUC) on the upper limb performance of patients with a stroke was investigated. To assess task specificity, a set of criteria was proposed: participation, program, relevant, repeated, randomized, reconstruction and reinforced.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Out of 855 articles, 17 fulfilled the selection criteria. A meta-analysis was performed on the Fugl-Meyer Assessment scores in the subacute and chronic stages after stroke and during follow-up.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: Both TST-AAD and TSUC improved the upper limb performance after stroke. In the sub-acute phase after stroke, TST-AAD was more effective than TSUC in reducing the upper limb impairment, although findings were based on only three studies. In the chronic phase, TST-AAD and TSUC showed similar effectiveness. No differences between the two types of training were found at the follow-up measurements. Future studies should describe training, device usage and criteria of task specificity in a standardized way to ease comparison.Implications for rehabilitationArm or hand function is often undertreated in stroke patients, assistive training devices may be able to improve the upper limb performance.Task-specific training using assistive devices is effective in improving the upper limb performance after stroke.Task-specific training using assistive devices seems to be more effective in reducing impairment compared with task specific usual care in the subacute phase after stroke, but they are equally effective in the chronic phase of stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalDisability and rehabilitation. Assistive technology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17-Nov-2021


  • Stroke
  • upper limb
  • rehabilitation
  • task specific
  • assistive device
  • ARM

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