Depending on the severity of their stroke, patients undergoing ankle training using a robotic therapy device to aid in their rehabilitation have the potential for their walking speed and balance to return to normal, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by researchers from Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, was published recently in NeuroRehabilitation.

“Exercise is one of the main ways for patients who have had a stroke to regain movement,” says Johanna L. Chang, the study’s lead author, in a media release from Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

“The use of robotic assisted-devices can enhance the therapy by increasing the intensity of the motor experience. This interactive robotic device moves the paralyzed arm or leg when the patient cannot and gets out of the way when the patient powers the movement.  In our study, the baseline or initial walking speed prior to therapy was an important factor in predicting the final walking speed.”

In the study, the release explains, 29 participants with a foot drop and walking speed abnormalities after stroke were treated three times a week for 6 weeks with robot-assisted ankle training. The patients were separated into three groups: high function (walking speed greater than 3 feet per second), medium function (1 foot per second), and low function (less than 1 foot per second). During a session, patients were seated in front of a video monitor and the ankle robot was attached at the knee and foot. The patient viewed the video screen that had a cursor and used their legs and ankle to move the cursor to reach a particular target.

After 18 sessions, the high and medium function groups demonstrated significant improvements in walking speed, with the high functioning group achieving a speed that is considered normal for ambulating patients in the community (greater than 4 feet per second).  In a 3-month post-treatment follow-up session, the high function group continued to improve (4.39 feet per second). The low functioning group demonstrated the greatest change in improved balance.

“Much like one medication is not effective for all patients with a certain condition, not all rehabilitation is beneficial to all,” states Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute, in the release. “By understanding who can most benefit from robotic rehabilitation medical professionals can better tailor a program that will result in the highest benefit for patients.”

[Source(s): Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, PR Newswire]