Gait Training After Stroke: A Pilot Study Combining a Gravity-Balanced Orthosis, Functional Electrical Stimulation, and Visual Feedback

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Abstract

Rationale:

This case report describes the application of a novel gait retraining approach to an individual with poststroke hemiparesis. The rehabilitation protocol combined a specially designed leg orthosis (the gravity-balanced orthosis), treadmill walking, and functional electrical stimulation to the ankle muscles with the application of motor learning principles.

Case:

The participant was a 58-year-old man who had a stroke more than three years before the intervention. He underwent gait retraining over a period of five weeks for a total of 15 sessions during which the gravity compensation provided by the gravity-balanced orthosis and visual feedback about walking performance was gradually reduced.

Outcomes:

At the end of five weeks, he decreased the time required to complete the Timed Up and Go test; his gait speed increased during overground walking; gait was more symmetrical; stride length, hip and knee joint excursions on the affected side increased. Except for gait symmetry, all other improvements were maintained one month post-intervention.

Conclusions:

This case report describes possible advantages of judiciously combining different treatment techniques in improving the gait of chronic stroke survivors. Further studies are planned to evaluate the effectiveness of different components of this training in both the subacute and chronic stages of stroke recovery.

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