Robot-assisted gait training to reduce pusher behavior: A randomized controlled trial

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Abstract

Objective

To determine the effects of 2 weeks of intensive robot-assisted gait training (RAGT) on pusher behavior compared to nonrobotic physiotherapy (nR-PT).

Methods

In a single-blind, randomized, controlled trial with 2 parallel arms, we compared 2 weeks of daily RAGT (intervention group) with the same amount of nR-PT (control group). Patients with subacute stroke who had pusher behavior according to the Scale for Contraversive Pushing (SCP) were included. The primary research questions were whether changes in pusher behavior would differ between groups post intervention, and at a follow-up 2 weeks afterward (SCP and Burke Lateropulsion Scale, Class II evidence). Secondary outcomes included the Performance-Oriented Mobility Assessment, the Functional Ambulation Classification, and the Subjective Visual Vertical.

Results

Thirty-eight patients were randomized. Thereof, 30 patients received the allocated intervention and were included in the analyses. RAGT led to a larger reduction of pusher behavior than nR-PT at post test (SCP: U = 69.00, r = −0.33, p = 0.037; Burke Lateropulsion Scale: U = 47.500, r = −0.50, p = 0.003) and at follow-up (SCP: U = 54.00, r = −0.44, p = 0.008). Pusher behavior had ceased in 6 of 15 participants in the intervention group and 1 of 15 participants in the control group at post test. At follow-up, 9 of 15 and 5 of 15 participants, respectively, no longer exhibited the behavior.

Conclusions

Two weeks of RAGT seems to persistently reduce pusher behavior, possibly by recalibrating the disturbed inner reference of verticality. The potential benefits of RAGT on pusher behavior and verticality perception require further investigation.

Trial registration

German Clinical Trials Register (registration number: DRKS00003444).

Classification of evidence

This study provides Class II evidence that RAGT is beneficial to reduce pusher behavior in patients with stroke.

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