Stroke is the third leading cause of death worldwide and is the most common cause of disability among adults (1, 2). As a result of stroke, patients have problems with locomotion and transfers, which lead to frequent falls. People with hemiparesis have uneven distribution of body mass between the sides of the body, causing balance and coordination disorders, deep and superficial sensation, increased muscle tone, and fear of falling (2, 3). Patients have problems with lack of normal postural muscle tone, and proper reciprocal innervation as well as normal, automatic movement patterns and balance reactions (4). Some studies have reported that balance alterations significantly limit the physical activity of stroke patients, which may be the reason for deconditioning of patients in the chronic phase and reduction in their gait possibilities as well as other activities of daily living (5). That is why gait rehabilitation and also balance therapy are very important in improving the quality of everyday and social life of those patients (6).
Gait training may improve not only strength, endurance, and coordination of the lower limbs but also the entire body of the patient, influencing general fitness and endurance, balance, normalization of muscle tone, and functional improvement (7). The Barthel Index (BI) and Rivermead Mobility Index (RMI) tests are considered to be proper criteria for assessing a patient’s functional state after stroke and good indicators of the effectiveness of the applied therapy (8, 9).
Recovery after stroke is a major goal of rehabilitation, but it is difficult to choose which treatment method is most beneficial for stroke survivors. Recently, powered robotic exoskeletons are used in treatment to maximize the neural recovery of patients after stroke (10, 11). However, in a review paper, Louie and Eng (12) have reported that only four different types of powered exoskeletons have been studied among a small number of stroke patients, and the published data were controversial. Moreover, in the available literature, there are no studies evaluating the changes in balance among patients rehabilitated with an exoskeleton. Most authors have reported various aspects of walking, and only a few papers have presented data concerning changes in balance. Additionally, most of the studies used subjective tools such as the Berg Balance Scale (13, 14). There is a lack of studies in which changes in balance and load distribution due to rehabilitation with the exoskeleton would be examined using an objective tool—stabilometric platform; therefore, this study undertakes this task for the first time.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of rehabilitation with Ekso GT exoskeleton in patients after ischemic stroke and to compare this type of therapy with the classical model of rehabilitation. The novelty of this study was the verification of the robot-assisted gait training effects on balance, load distribution, and functional status of stroke patients.[…]