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Body-weight support gait training in neurological intensive care: safety, feasibility, and delays before walking with or without suspension.

BACKGROUND: Early Mobilization in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) enhances patients' evolution, but has been rarely studied in neurological ICUs. The aim of this study was to assess gait training with body-weight support (BWS) in neuroICU, and to report on its safety, feasibility and on delays before walking with and without BWS.

METHODS: This study was an observational one-year single-center study. Inclusion criteria were adults with a neurological injury requiring mechanical ventilation. Exclusion criteria were early death or ICU transfer. After weaning from ventilation, patients were screened for indications of BWS walking using predefined criteria.

RESULTS: Patients' conditions were mostly brain injuries: 32% subarachnoid hemorrhages, 42% focal strokes, and 12% traumatic brain injuries. Out of 272 admissions, 136 patients were excluded, 78 were eligible, and 33 performed BWS walking. Among non-eligible patients, 36 walked unsuspended upon ventilation weaning, 17 presented too severe impairments. Among the 45 eligible patients who did not receive BWS training, main reasons were workload and weekends (31%), medical barriers (29%), and early ICU discharge (22%). 78 BWS sessions were performed on the 33 beneficiaries (median sessions per patient 2, max 10). Pre-session, most patients had inadequate response to pain, orders, or simple orientation questions. Sitting without support was impossible for 74%. Most pre-post changes in hemodynamic, respiratory, and pain parameters were small, and recovered spontaneously after the session. Eight sessions were interrupted; reasons were pain, fatigue or major imbalance (4), syncope (1), occurrence of stool (2), and battery failure (1). None of these adverse events required medical intervention, patients recovered upon session interruption. Median session duration was 31 min, patients walked on median 17 m. First BWS session occurred on median 3 days after ventilation weaning, and 11 days before patients were able to walk unsuspended.

CONCLUSIONS: Verticalization and walking using a suspension device in patients in neuroICU allows early gait training, despite challenging neurological impairments. It is safe and generally well tolerated.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials database (ID: NCT04300491).

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