Spatio-temporal parameters and intralimb coordination patterns describing hemiparetic locomotion at controlled speed

Lucio A Rinaldi, Vito Monaco
Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation 2013, 10 (1): 53

BACKGROUND: Comparison between healthy and hemiparetic gait is usually carried out while subjects walk overground at preferred speed. This generates bias due to the lack of uniformity across selected speeds because they reflect the great variability of the functional level of post-stroke patients. This study aimed at examining coordinative adaptations during walking in response to unilateral brain damage, while homologous participants walked at two fixed speeds.

METHODS: Five patients with left and five with right chronic hemiparesis, characterized by similar level of motor functioning, were enrolled. Ten non-disabled volunteers were recruited as matched control group. Spatio-temporal parameters, and intralimb thigh-leg and leg-foot coordination patterns were used to compare groups while walking on a treadmill at 0.4 and 0.6 m/s. The likelihood of Continuous Relative Phase patterns between healthy and hemiparetic subjects was evaluated by means of the root mean square of the difference and the cross correlation coefficient. The effects of the group (i.e., healthy vs. hemiparetics), side (i.e., affected vs.unaffected), and speed (e.g., slow vs. fast) were analyzed on all metrics using the Analysis of Variance.

RESULTS: Spatio-temporal parameters of all hemiparetic subjects did not significantly differ from those of healthy subjects nor showed any asymmetry between affected and unaffected limbs. Conversely, both thigh-leg and foot-leg coordination patterns appeared to account for pathology related modifications.

CONCLUSION: Comparisons between hemiparetic and healthy gait should be carried out when all participants are asked to seek the same suitable dynamic equilibrium led by the same external (i.e., the speed) and internal (i.e., severity of the pathology) conditions. In this respect, biomechanical adaptations reflecting the pathology can be better highlighted by coordinative patterns of coupled segments within each limb than by the spatio-temporal parameters. Accordingly, a deep analysis of the intralimb coordination may be helpful for clinicians while designing therapeutic treatments.

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