Development of a single device to quantify motor impairments of the elbow: proof of concept

Levinia Lara van der Velden*, Bram Onneweer, Claudia Josephina Wilhelmina Haarman, Joyce Lisanne Benner, Marij Eugenie Roebroeck, Gerard Maria Ribbers, Ruud Willem Selles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Background: For patients with post-stroke upper limb impairments, the currently available clinical measurement instruments are inadequate for reliable quantification of multiple impairments, such as muscle weakness, abnormal synergy, changes in elastic joint properties and spasticity. Robotic devices to date have successfully achieved precise and accurate quantification but are often limited to the measurement of one or two impairments. Our primary aim is to develop a robotic device that can effectively quantify four main motor impairments of the elbow. Methods: The robotic device, Shoulder Elbow Perturbator, is a one-degree-of-freedom device that can simultaneously manipulate the elbow joint and support the (partial) weight of the human arm. Upper limb impairments of the elbow were quantified based on four experiments on the paretic arm in ten stroke patients (mean age 65 ± 10 yrs, 9 males, post-stroke) and the non-dominant arm in 20 healthy controls (mean age 65 ± 14 yrs, 6 males). The maximum strength of elbow flexor and elbow extensor muscles was measured isometrically at 90-degree elbow flexion. The maximal active extension angle of the elbow was measured under different arm weight support levels to assess abnormal synergy. Torque resistance was analyzed during a slow (6°/s) passive elbow rotation, where the elbow moved from the maximal flexion to maximal extension angle and back, to assess elastic joint properties. The torque profile was evaluated during fast (100°/s) passive extension rotation of the elbow to estimate spasticity. Results: The ten chronic stroke patients successfully completed the measurement protocol. The results showed impairment values outside the 10th and 90th percentile reference intervals of healthy controls. Individual patient profiles were determined and illustrated in a radar figure, to support clinicians in developing targeted treatment plans. Conclusion: The Shoulder Elbow Perturbator can effectively quantify the four most important impairments of the elbow in stroke patients and distinguish impairment scores of patients from healthy controls. These results are promising for objective and complete quantification of motor impairments of the elbow and monitoring patient prognosis. Our newly developed Shoulder Elbow Perturbator can therefore in the future be employed to evaluate treatment effects by comparing pre- and post-treatment assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number77
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Elbow
  • Mechanical device
  • Muscle strength
  • Quantification
  • Spasticity
  • Stroke
  • Synergy
  • Upper limb
  • Viscoelastic properties


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