Repetitive locomotor training and physiotherapy improve walking and basic activities of daily living after stroke: a single-blind, randomized multicentre trial (DEutsche GAngtrainerStudie, DEGAS)

M Pohl, C Werner, M Holzgraefe, G Kroczek, J Mehrholz, I Wingendorf, G Hoölig, R Koch, S Hesse
Clinical Rehabilitation 2007, 21 (1): 17-27

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of repetitive locomotor training on an electromechanical gait trainer plus physiotherapy in subacute stroke patients.

DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial.

SETTING: Four German neurological rehabilitation centres.

SUBJECTS: One hundred and fifty-five non-ambulatory patients (first-time stroke <60 days).

INTERVENTION: Group A received 20 min locomotor training and 25 min physiotherapy; group B had 45 min physiotherapy every week day for four weeks.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary variables were gait ability (Functional Ambulation Category, 0-5) and the Barthel Index (0-100), blindly assessed at study onset, end, and six months later for follow-up. Responders to the therapy had to become ambulatory (Functional Ambulation Category 4 or 5) or reach a Barthel Index of > or = 75. Secondary variables were walking velocity, endurance, mobility and leg power.

RESULTS: The intention-to-treat analysis revealed that significantly greater number of patients in group A could walk independently: 41 of 77 versus 17 of 78 in group B (P B < 0.0001) at treatment end. Also, significantly more group A patients had reached a Barthel Index > or = 75: 44 of 77 versus 21 of 78 (P B < 0.0001). At six-month follow-up, the superior gait ability in group A persisted (54 of 77 versus 28 of 78, P B < 0.0001), while the Barthel Index responder rate did not differ. For all secondary variables, group A patients had improved significantly more (P B < 0.0001) during the treatment period, but not during follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: Intensive locomotor training plus physiotherapy resulted in a significantly better gait ability and daily living competence in subacute stroke patients compared with physiotherapy alone.

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