How feasible is the attainment of community ambulation after stroke? A pilot randomized controlled trial to evaluate community-based physiotherapy in subacute stroke

Susan Lord, Kathryn M McPherson, Harry K McNaughton, Lynn Rochester, Mark Weatherall
Clinical Rehabilitation 2008, 22 (3): 215-25

OBJECTIVE: This pilot randomized controlled trial evaluated an assistant-led, community-based intervention to improve community mobility and participation after stroke, and examined the potential for independent community ambulation in people with subacute stroke who present with moderate gait deficit.

DESIGN: A multicentre, pilot randomized controlled trial.

SETTING: Three hospitals and three community settings in New Zealand.

SUBJECTS: Thirty post-acute, home-dwelling stroke survivors were randomly allocated to receive intervention in the community (n = 14) or as hospital outpatients (n = 16) twice a week for seven weeks.

INTERVENTIONS: The community intervention involved practice of functional gait activities in community environments relevant to each participant. Hospital-based physiotherapy was based upon a Motor Relearning approach.

MAIN MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was gait speed (m/min). Secondary outcomes included endurance (six-minute walk time), Activities-specific Confidence Balance Scale, and the Subjective Index of Physical and Social Outcomes measured at baseline, post intervention and six months.

RESULTS: Large gains in gait speed were obtained for participants in both groups: community group mean (SD) 16 (16.1) m/min; physiotherapy group mean (SD) 15.9 (16.1) m/min, maintained at six months. There were no significant differences between groups for primary and secondary outcomes after treatment (P = 0.86 ANOVA) or at six months (P = 0.83 ANOVA). Only 11 participants reported independent community ambulation. Levels of social integration were low to moderate.

CONCLUSIONS: A community-based gait recovery programme appears a practicable alternative to routine physiotherapy, however independent community ambulation is a challenging rehabilitation goal.

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