Robotic Rehabilitation and Multimodal Instrumented Assessment of Post-stroke Elbow Motor Functions—A Randomized Controlled Trial Protocol

Alessandro Pilla, Emilio Trigili, Zach McKinney, Chiara Fanciullacci, Chiara Malasoma, Federico Posteraro, Simona Crea, Nicola Vitiello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The reliable assessment, attribution, and alleviation of upper-limb joint stiffness are essential clinical objectives in the early rehabilitation from stroke and other neurological disorders, to prevent the progression of neuromuscular pathology and enable proactive physiotherapy toward functional recovery. However, the current clinical evaluation and treatment of this stiffness (and underlying muscle spasticity) are severely limited by their dependence on subjective evaluation and manual limb mobilization, thus rendering the evaluation imprecise and the treatment insufficiently tailored to the specific pathologies and residual capabilities of individual patients. Methods: To address these needs, the proposed clinical trial will employ the NEUROExos Elbow Module (NEEM), an active robotic exoskeleton, for the passive mobilization and active training of elbow flexion and extension in 60 sub-acute and chronic stroke patients with motor impairments (hemiparesis and/or spasticity) of the right arm. The study protocol is a randomized controlled trial consisting of a 4-week functional rehabilitation program, with both clinical and robotically instrumented assessments to be conducted at baseline and post-treatment. The primary outcome measures will be a set of standard clinical scales for upper limb spasticity and motor function assessment, including the Modified Ashworth Scale and Fugl-Meyer Index, to confirm the safety and evaluate the efficacy of robotic rehabilitation in reducing elbow stiffness and improving function. Secondary outcomes will include biomechanical, muscular activity, and motor performance parameters extracted from instrumented assessments using the NEEM along with synchronous EMG recordings. Conclusions: This randomized controlled trial aims to validate an innovative instrumented methodology for clinical spasticity assessment and functional rehabilitation, relying on the precision and accuracy of an elbow exoskeleton combined with EMG recordings and the expertise of a physiotherapist, thus complementing and maximizing the benefits of both practices. Clinical Trial Registration:, identifier NCT04484571.

Original languageEnglish
Article number587293
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 22 2020


  • exoskeleton
  • functional rehabilitation
  • instrumented spasticity assessment
  • joint stiffness
  • robotic rehabilitation
  • stroke
  • upper limb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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