Contrary to common belief of clinicians that hemorrhagic stroke survivors have better functional prognoses than ischemic, recent studies show that ischemic survivors could experience similar or even better functional improvements. However, the influence of stroke subtype on gait and posture outcomes following an intervention blending conventional physiotherapy with robotic-assisted gait therapy is missing.
This study compared gait and posture outcome measures between ambulatory hemorrhagic patients and ischemic patients, who received a similar 4 weeks’ intervention blending a conventional bottom-up physiotherapy approach and an exoskeleton top-down robotic-assisted gait training (RAGT) approach with Lokomat.
Forty adult hemiparetic stroke inpatient subjects were recruited: 20 hemorrhagic and 20 ischemic, matched by age, gender, side of hemisphere lesion, stroke severity, and locomotor impairments. Functional Ambulation Category, Postural Assessment Scale for Stroke, Tinetti Performance Oriented Mobility Assessment, 6 Minutes Walk Test, Timed Up and Go and 10-Meter Walk Test were performed before and after a 4-week long intervention. Functional gains were calculated for all tests.
Hemorrhagic and ischemic subjects showed significant improvements in Functional Ambulation Category (P<0.001 and P = 0.008, respectively), Postural Assessment Scale for Stroke (P<0.001 and P = 0.003), 6 Minutes Walk Test (P = 0.003 and P = 0.015) and 10-Meter Walk Test (P = 0.001 and P = 0.024). Ischemic patients also showed significant improvements in Timed Up and Go. Significantly greater mean Functional Ambulation Category and Tinetti Performance Oriented Mobility Assessment gains were observed for hemorrhagic compared to ischemic, with large (dz = 0.81) and medium (dz = 0.66) effect sizes, respectively.
Overall, both groups exhibited quasi similar functional improvements and benefits from the same type, length and frequency of blended conventional physiotherapy and RAGT protocol. The use of intensive treatment plans blending top-down physiotherapy and bottom-up robotic approaches is promising for post-stroke rehabilitation.