The effectiveness of body weight-supported gait training and floor walking in patients with chronic stroke

Sinikka H Peurala, Ina M Tarkka, Kauko Pitkänen, Juhani Sivenius
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2005, 86 (8): 1557-64

OBJECTIVE: To compare body weight-supported exercise on a gait trainer with walking exercise overground.

DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial.

SETTING: Rehabilitation hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: Forty-five ambulatory patients with chronic stroke.

INTERVENTIONS: Patients were randomized to 3 groups: (1) gait trainer exercise with functional electric stimulation (GTstim), (2) gait trainer exercise without stimulation (GT), and (3) walking overground (WALK). All patients practiced gait for 15 sessions during 3 weeks (each session, 20 min), and they received additional physiotherapy 55 minutes daily.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Ten-meter walk test (10MWT), six-minute walk test (6MWT), lower-limb spasticity and muscle force, postural sway tests, Modified Motor Assessment Scale (MMAS), and FIM instrument scores were recorded before, during, and after the rehabilitation and at 6 months follow-up.

RESULTS: The mean walking distance using the gait trainer was 6900+/-1200 m in the GTstim group and 6500+/-1700 m in GT group. In the WALK group, the distance was 4800+/-2800 m, which was less than the walking distance obtained in the GTstim group (P=.027). The body-weight support was individually reduced from 30% to 9% of the body weight over the course of the program. In the pooled 45 patients, the 10MWT (P<.001), 6MWT (P<.001), MMAS (P<.001), dynamic balance test time (P<.001), and test trip (P=.005) scores improved; however, no differences were found between the groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Both the body weight-supported training and walking exercise training programs resulted in faster gait after the intensive rehabilitation program. Patients' motor performance remained improved at the follow-up.

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