Robotic Devices for Paediatric Rehabilitation: A Review of Design Features

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Children with physical disabilities often have limited performance in daily activities, hindering their physical development, social development and mental health. Therefore, rehabilitation is essential to mitigate the adverse effects of the different causes of physical disabilities and improve independence and quality of life. In the last decade, robotic rehabilitation has shown the potential to augment traditional physical rehabilitation. However, to date, most robotic rehabilitation devices are designed for adult patients who differ in their needs compared to paediatric patients, limiting the devices’ potential because the paediatric patients’ needs are not adequately considered. With this in mind, the current work reviews the existing literature on robotic rehabilitation for children with physical disabilities, intending to summarise how the rehabilitation robots could fulfil children’s needs and inspire researchers to develop new devices. A literature search was conducted utilising the Web of Science, PubMed and Scopus databases. Based on the inclusion–exclusion criteria, 206 publications were included, and 58 robotic devices used by children with a physical disability were identified. Different design factors and the treated conditions using robotic technology were compared. Through the analyses, it was identified that weight, safety, operability and motivation were crucial factors to the successful design of devices for children. The majority of the current devices were used for lower limb rehabilitation. Neurological disorders, in particular cerebral palsy, were the most common conditions for which devices were designed. By far, the most common actuator was the electric motor. Usually, the devices present more than one training strategy being the assistive strategy the most used. The admittance/impedance method is the most popular to interface the robot with the children. Currently, there is a trend on developing exoskeletons, as they can assist children with daily life activities outside of the rehabilitation setting, propitiating a wider adoption of the technology. With this shift in focus, it appears likely that new technologies to actuate the system (e.g. serial elastic actuators) and to detect the intention (e.g. physiological signals) of children as they go about their daily activities will be required.

Robotic; Exoskeletons; Rehabilitation; Assistance; Children; Physical disability
BioMedical Engineering OnLine 20, 89 (2021).
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