Task-specific training for improving propulsion symmetry and gait speed in people in the chronic phase after stroke: a proof-of-concept study

J F Alingh, B E Groen, J F Kamphuis, A C H Geurts, V Weerdesteyn
2021 Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation  
After stroke, some individuals have latent, propulsive capacity of the paretic leg, that can be elicited during task-specific gait training. The aim of this proof-of-concept study was to investigate the effect of five-week robotic gait training for improving propulsion symmetry by increasing paretic propulsion in chronic stroke survivors. Twenty-nine individuals with chronic stroke and impaired paretic propulsion (≥ 8% difference in paretic vs. non-paretic propulsive impulse) were enrolled.
more » ... icipants received ten 60-min sessions of individual robotic gait training targeting paretic propulsion (five weeks, twice a week), complemented with home exercises (15 min/day) focusing on increasing strength and practicing learned strategies in daily life. Propulsion measures, gait kinematics and kinetics, self-selected gait speed, performance of functional gait tasks, and daily-life mobility and physical activity were assessed five weeks (T0) and one week (T1) before the start of intervention, and one week (T2) and five weeks (T3) after the intervention period. Between T0 and T1, no significant differences in outcomes were observed, except for a marginal increase in gait speed (+ 2.9%). Following the intervention, propulsion symmetry (+ 7.9%) and paretic propulsive impulse had significantly improved (+ 8.1%), whereas non-paretic propulsive impulse remained unchanged. Larger gains in propulsion symmetry were associated with more asymmetrical propulsion at T0. In addition, following the intervention significantly greater paretic trailing limb angles (+ 6.6%) and ankle plantarflexion moments (+ 7.1%) were observed. Furthermore, gait speed (+ 7.2%), 6-Minute Walk Test (+ 6.4%), Functional Gait Assessment (+ 6.5%), and daily-life walking intensity (+ 6.9%) had increased following the intervention. At five-week follow-up (T3), gains in all outcomes were retained, and gait speed had further increased (+ 3.6%). The post-intervention gain in paretic propulsion did not only translate into improved propulsion symmetry and gait speed, but also pertained to performance of functional gait tasks and daily-life walking activity levels. These findings suggest that well-selected chronic stroke survivors may benefit from task-specific targeted training to utilize the residual propulsive capacity of the paretic leg. Future research is recommended to establish simple baseline measures for identification of individuals who may benefit from such training and confirm benefits of the used training concepts in a randomized controlled trial. Registry number ClinicalTrials.gov ( www.clinicaltrials.gov ): NCT04650802, retrospectively registered 3 December 2020.
doi:10.1186/s12984-021-00858-8 pmid:33892754 fatcat:fxjhvwqnw5arfft6mop2b434dy