JOURNAL ARTICLE

Effects of stroke severity and training duration on locomotor recovery after stroke: a pilot study

Prudence Plummer, Andrea L Behrman, Pamela W Duncan, Pam Spigel, Dawn Saracino, Jennifer Martin, Emily Fox, Mary Thigpen, Steve A Kautz
Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 2007, 21 (2): 137-51
17312089

BACKGROUND: Locomotor training using partial body weight-supported treadmill (BWST) walking has been widely investigated for people after stroke, yet there remains a lack of evidence concerning the optimal training duration and the effect of locomotor impairment severity. Previous protocols have not emphasized the transfer of locomotor skills from the BWST environment to overground.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the feasibility of a program combining locomotor training using BWST with task-specific overground training and to obtain pilot data on the effects of severity and training duration on recovery of locomotion.

METHODS: Seven adults with chronic poststroke hemiparesis and gait speed less than 0.8 m/s were recruited to participate in a 12-week (36 session) locomotor training program. Each session comprised 20 to 30 minutes of training using BWST with manual assistance, followed by 10 to 15 minutes of overground training to transfer the skills trained in the BWST environment. Gait speed was the primary outcome measure.

RESULTS: Six out of the 7 enrolled individuals completed the intervention program; 1 was withdrawn due to transportation difficulties affecting compliance with the training schedule. Four of the 6 participants had a functionally significant improvement in walking speed after 36 sessions, defined as having achieved a 0.4 m/s gait speed or greater for those with initial severe gait speed impairment (<0.4 m/s) or as having achieved a 0.8 m/s gait speed or greater for persons with initial moderate gait speed impairment (>or=0.4 m/s and <0.8 m/s). All participants improved in balance and distance walked over 6 minutes, and 5 of the 6 participants showed increases in their daily home and community step activity.

CONCLUSIONS: A locomotor training program combining walking using BWST and manual assistance with overground practice is feasible for people with chronic poststroke hemiparesis and moderate or severe gait speed impairment. This intervention shows promise for achieving functionally significant improvements in walking speed.

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