Does robotic gait training improve balance in Parkinson's disease? A randomized controlled trial

Alessandro Picelli, Camilla Melotti, Francesca Origano, Andreas Waldner, Raffaele Gimigliano, Nicola Smania
Parkinsonism & related Disorders 2012, 18 (8): 990-3

BACKGROUND: Treadmill training (with or without robotic assistance) has been reported to improve balance skills in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). However, its effectiveness on postural instability has been evaluated mainly in patients with mild to moderate PD (Hoehn & Yahr stage ≤3). Patients with more severe disease may benefit from robot-assisted gait training performed by the Gait-Trainer GT1, as a harness supports them with their feet placed on motor-driven footplates. The aim of this study was to determine whether robot-assisted gait training could have a positive influence on postural stability in patients with PD at Hoehn & Yahr stage 3-4.

METHODS: Thirty-four patients with PD at Hoehn & Yahr stage 3-4 were randomly assigned into two groups. All patients received twelve, 40-min treatment sessions, three days/week, for four consecutive weeks. The Robotic Training group (n = 17) underwent robot-assisted gait training, while the Physical Therapy group (n = 17) underwent a training program not specifically aimed at improving postural stability. Patients were evaluated before, immediately after and 1-month post-treatment. Primary outcomes were: Berg Balance scale; Nutt's rating.

RESULTS: A significant improvement was found after treatment on the Berg Balance Scale and the Nutt's rating in favor of the Robotic Training group (Berg: 43.44 ± 2.73; Nutt: 1.38 ± 0.50) compared to the Physical Therapy group (Berg: 37.27 ± 5.68; Nutt: 2.07 ± 0.59). All improvements were maintained at the 1-month follow-up evaluation.

CONCLUSIONS: Robot-assisted gait training may improve postural instability in patients with PD at Hoehn & Yahr stage 3-4.


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