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[ARTICLE] Systematic Review of Appropriate Robotic Intervention for Gait Function in Subacute Stroke Patients – Full Text

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to critically evaluate the effects of robot-assisted gait training (RAGT) on gait-related function in patients with acute/subacute stroke. We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials published between May 2012 and April 2016. This search included 334 articles (Cochrane, 51 articles; Embase, 175 articles; PubMed, 108 articles). Based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria, 7 studies were selected for this review. We performed a quality evaluation using the PEDro scale. In this review, 3 studies used an exoskeletal robot, and 4 studies used an end-effector robot as interventions. As a result, RAGT was found to be effective in improving walking ability in subacute stroke patients. Significant improvements in gait speed, functional ambulatory category, and Rivermead mobility index were found with RAGT compared with conventional physical therapy . Therefore, aggressive weight support and gait training at an early stage using a robotic device are helpful, and robotic intervention should be applied according to the patient’s functional level and onset time of stroke.

1. Introduction

Stroke is a common disease [1]. In most patients, disabilities remain after stroke, and long-lasting disability requires continuous management and intensive rehabilitation [12]. Furthermore, the economic burden on the patient increases because of the prolonged rehabilitation period. Therefore, the application of intensive and efficient rehabilitation programs and techniques is an urgent need after stroke [3].

Gait impairment is one of the most important problems after stroke and is associated with activities of daily living and mobility issues [4]. Therefore, recovery of gait function is an important goal of rehabilitation for independent living [5]. Interventions to enhance gait function require repetitive task training with high intensity, and extensive effort by physical therapists is essential [5]. Moreover, the most effective rehabilitation intervention, including gait training, must be performed shortly after stroke and in an intensive and task-oriented manner and should include multisensory stimulation [3].

Robot-assisted gait training (RAGT) for patients in the acute/subacute stage who are nonambulatory is effective at reeducating motor control function through repetitive training of a specific task [6]; RAGT provides intensive therapy, which reduces the burden on therapists, and enhances motor reeducation with multisensory stimulation [3]. Several previous studies reported that gait training using robotic devices is effective at enhancing muscular activity patterns [7], muscle tone, joint range of motion [8], gait speed, functional gait capability [79], gait independence, and mobility in the community [1011]. Moreover, patients who received RAGT and conventional physical therapy had a higher chance of regaining independent gait function than those who received only conventional gait training [12]. However, owing to studies that suggested RAGT is ineffective [13], the effect on gait and gait-related function in subacute stroke remains unclear. In a previous review of effectiveness in stroke patients, the RAGT group showed significant improvement in balance and balance-related activity function, but the comparison between the groups was not significant [14]. These results show that RAGT is effective, but whether it is more effective than other gait-related rehabilitation interventions is still unclear. In this context, the effect of RAGT is still not clearly demonstrated, and reviews that have recently demonstrated the effect of RAGT on gait-related outcome measures in patients with acute/subacute stroke are also limited.

Therefore, the aim of this systematic review was to investigate the effects of RAGT on acute/subacute stroke. The specific goals included identifying the effects of RAGT using assessment tools associated with gait and gait-related function in patients with acute/subacute stroke.[…]

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