Robotic Gait Retraining

People who have had a stroke and have difficulty walking often develop improved gaits when they add robotic assistance systems to conventional rehabilitation. A study funded by the Italian Ministry of Health and Santa Lucia Foundation compared the walks of 48 severely impaired stroke survivors. Half the group received conventional rehabilitation and the other half received conventional rehab plus robotic gait training. The study, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, showed the added robotic gait training worked for people with severe impairments, but did not significantly help patients with higher mobility.

The robotic devices are electromechanical platforms attached to a patient’s feet. A physical therapist sets progressive bearing weights and walking paces and measures how the patient is doing.

So, the question is WHY? The simple answer is that we are much smarter than a computer or device. The brain makes millions of calculations per second to perform the concert we call gait. A computer cannot approximate all the variables; only the ones that are programmed. The folks with more mobility (less morbidity) were “smarter” and more than likely, the computer slowed them down. The less fortunate ones needed more help.

The Gait Guys: sifting through the literature and bringing you the highlights.