AiWalker is a newly developed robot-assisted gait training system, which features over-ground walking paradigm and somatosensory stimulation during training compared to commonly-used robot-assisted gait training devices (e.g. Lokomat). However, no study has examined its true therapeutic effect and possible mechanism or mediating factor(s).
To investigate 1) the therapeutic effect of AiWalker on the balance and walking ability in patients with stroke, and 2) whether the improvement in somatosensory function represents one of the possible mediating factors for such effect.
Three patients with impaired balance and walking ability due to stroke were recruited. Two patients received AiWalker training plus conventional training; while the other one only experienced conventional training. Standing balance and walking ability were assessed before and after all the training, which were represented by 6 variables. Lower limb somatosensory function was examined using Fugl-Meyer Assessment Scale.
Five out of the 6 variables showed greater changes in patients who received AiWalker training compared to the one who only experienced conventional training. Greater improvement in lower limb somatosensory function was observed in one patient who received AiWalker training compared to the one who only experienced conventional training.
The novel robot-assisted gait training system may elicit greater improvement of balance and walking ability in patients with stroke compared to conventional interventions. Lower limb somatosensory function may be improved by AiWalker, and its improvement might represent one of the possible mediating factors for the therapeutic effect of AiWalker on balance and walking ability.