Robot-assisted gait training (Lokomat) improves walking function and activity in people with spinal cord injury: a systematic review

Date: 2017; 14: 24

Authors: Ki Yeun Nam, Hyun Jung Kim, Bum Sun Kwon, Jin-Woo Park, Ho Jun Lee, & Aeri Yoo

Publication: Neuroengineering Rehabil.

PubMed ID: 28330471


Robot-assisted gait training (RAGT) after spinal cord injury (SCI) induces several different neurophysiological mechanisms to restore walking ability, including the activation of central pattern generators, task-specific stepping practice and massed exercise. However, there is no clear evidence for the optimal timing and efficacy of RAGT in people with SCI. The aim of our study was to assess the effects of RAGT on improvement in walking-related functional outcomes in patients with incomplete SCI compared with other rehabilitation modalities according to time elapsed since injury. This review included 10 trials involving 502 participants to meta-analysis. The acute RAGT groups showed significantly greater improvements in gait distance, leg strength, and functional level of mobility and independence than the over-ground training (OGT) groups. The pooled mean difference was 45.05 m (95% CI 13.81 to 76.29, P = 0.005, I2 = 0%; two trials, 122 participants), 2.54 (LEMS, 95% CI 0.11 to 4.96, P = 0.04, I2 = 0%; three trials, 211 participants) and 0.5 (WISCI-II and FIM-L, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.98, P = 0.04, I2 = 67%; three trials, 211 participants), respectively. In the chronic RAGT group, significantly greater improvements in speed (pooled mean difference = 0.07 m/s, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.12, P = 0.01, I2 = 0%; three trials, 124 participants) and balance measured by TUG (pooled mean difference = 9.25, 95% CI 2.76 to 15.73, P = 0.005, I2 = 74%; three trials, 120 participants) were observed than in the group with no intervention. Thus, RAGT improves mobility-related outcomes to a greater degree than conventional OGT for patients with incomplete SCI, particularly during the acute stage. RAGT treatment is a promising technique to restore functional walking and improve locomotor ability, which might enable SCI patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle and increase their level of physical activity.

An observational report of intensive robotic and manual gait training in sub-acute stroke

Date: 2012; 9: 13.

Authors: Lucas Conesa, Ursula Costa, Eva Morales, Dyland J Edwards, Mar Cortes, Daniel Leon, Montserrat Bernabeu, & Josep Medina

Publication: Neuroengineering Rehabil.

PubMed ID: 22329866



The use of automated electromechanical devices for gait training in neurological patients is increasing, yet the functional outcomes of well-defined training programs using these devices and the characteristics of patients that would most benefit are seldom reported in the literature. In an observational study of functional outcomes, we aimed to provide a benchmark for expected change in gait function in early stroke patients, from an intensive inpatient rehabilitation program including both robotic and manual gait training.


We followed 103 sub-acute stroke patients who met the clinical inclusion criteria for Body Weight Supported Robotic Gait Training (BWSRGT). Patients completed an intensive 8-week gait-training program comprising robotic gait training (weeks 0-4) followed by manual gait training (weeks 4-8). A change in clinical function was determined by the following assessments taken at 0, 4 and 8 weeks (baseline, mid-point and end-point respectively): Functional Ambulatory Categories (FAC), 10 m Walking Test (10 MWT), and Tinetti Gait and Balance Scales.


Over half of the patients made a clinically meaningful improvement on the Tinetti Gait Scale (> 3 points) and Tinetti Balance Scale (> 5 points), while over 80% of the patients increased at least 1 point on the FAC scale (0-5) and improved walking speed by more than 0.2 m/s. Patients responded positively in gait function regardless of variables gender, age, aetiology (hemorrhagic/ischemic), and affected hemisphere. The most robust and significant change was observed for patients in the FAC categories two and three. The therapy was well tolerated and no patients withdrew for factors related to the type or intensity of training.


Eight-weeks of intensive rehabilitation including robotic and manual gait training was well tolerated by early stroke patients, and was associated with significant gains in function. Patients with mid-level gait dysfunction showed the most robust improvement following robotic training.

Repetitive locomotor training and physiotherapy improve walking and basic activities of daily living after stroke: a single-blind, randomized multicenter trial

Date: 2007 Jan;21(1):17-27.

Authors: Pohi M, Werner C, Holzgraefe M, Kroczeck G, Mehrholz J, Wingendorf I, Hoolig G, & Koch R, Hesse S.

Publication: Clin Rehabil.

PubMed ID: 17213237



To evaluate the effect of repetitive locomotor training on an electromechanical gait trainer plus physiotherapy in subacute stroke patients.


Randomized controlled trial.


Four German neurological rehabilitation centres.


One hundred and fifty-five non-ambulatory patients (first-time stroke <60 days).


Group A received 20 min locomotor training and 25 min physiotherapy; group B had 45 min physiotherapy every week day for four weeks.


Primary variables were gait ability (Functional Ambulation Category, 0-5) and the Barthel Index (0-100), blindly assessed at study onset, end, and six months later for follow-up. Responders to the therapy had to become ambulatory (Functional Ambulation Category 4 or 5) or reach a Barthel Index of > or = 75. Secondary variables were walking velocity, endurance, mobility and leg power.


The intention-to-treat analysis revealed that significantly greater number of patients in group A could walk independently: 41 of 77 versus 17 of 78 in group B (P B < 0.0001) at treatment end. Also, significantly more group A patients had reached a Barthel Index > or = 75: 44 of 77 versus 21 of 78 (P B < 0.0001). At six-month follow-up, the superior gait ability in group A persisted (54 of 77 versus 28 of 78, P B < 0.0001), while the Barthel Index responder rate did not differ. For all secondary variables, group A patients had improved significantly more (P B < 0.0001) during the treatment period, but not during follow-up.


Intensive locomotor training plus physiotherapy resulted in a significantly better gait ability and daily living competence in subacute stroke patients compared with physiotherapy alone.

Gait rehabilitation machines based on programmable footplates

Date: 2007; 4: 2.

Authors: Henning Schmidt, Cordula Werner, Rolf Bernhardt, Stefan Hesse, & Jorg Kruger

Publication: Neuroengineering Rehabil.

PubMed ID: 17291335



Gait restoration is an integral part of rehabilitation of brain lesioned patients. Modern concepts favour a task-specific repetitive approach, i.e. who wants to regain walking has to walk, while tone-inhibiting and gait preparatory manoeuvres had dominated therapy before. Following the first mobilization out of the bed, the wheelchair-bound patient should have the possibility to practise complex gait cycles as soon as possible. Steps in this direction were treadmill training with partial body weight support and most recently gait machines enabling the repetitive training of even surface gait and even of stair climbing.


With treadmill training harness-secured and partially relieved wheelchair-mobilised patients could practise up to 1000 steps per session for the first time. Controlled trials in stroke and SCI patients, however, failed to show a superior result when compared to walking exercise on the floor. Most likely explanation was the effort for the therapists, e.g. manually setting the paretic limbs during the swing phase resulting in a too little gait intensity. The next steps were gait machines, either consisting of a powered exoskeleton and a treadmill (Lokomat, AutoAmbulator) or an electromechanical solution with the harness secured patient placed on movable foot plates (Gait Trainer GT I). For the latter, a large multi-centre trial with 155 non-ambulatory stroke patients (DEGAS) revealed a superior gait ability and competence in basic activities of living in the experimental group. The HapticWalker continued the end effector concept of movable foot plates, now fully programmable and equipped with 6 DOF force sensors. This device for the first time enables training of arbitrary walking situations, hence not only the simulation of floor walking but also for example of stair climbing and perturbations.


Locomotor therapy is a fascinating new tool in rehabilitation, which is in line with modern principles of motor relearning promoting a task-specific repetitive approach. Sophisticated technical developments and positive randomized controlled trials form the basis of a growing acceptance worldwide to the benefits or our patients.

High-intensity treadmill training improves gait ability, VO2peak and cost of walking in stroke survivors: preliminary results of a pilot randomized controlled trial.

Date: 2018 Jun;54(3):408-418

Authors: Munari D, Pedrinolla A, Smania N, Picelli A, Gandolfi M, Saltuari L, & Schena F

Publication: Eur J Phys Rehabilitation Med

PubMed ID: 27575015



Stroke is a major cause of death and long-term disability across the globe. Previous studies have demonstrated the trainability of stroke survivors and documented beneficial effects of aerobic exercises on cardiovascular fitness and gait ability.


The main aim of this study was to compare the effects of a high-intensity treadmill training (HITT) against low-intensity treadmill training (LITT) on gait ability, quality of life, cardiorespiratory fitness and cost of walking in chronic stroke subjects.


Randomized, controlled pilot study.


Patients were recruited among Neurorehabilitation Unit outpatient.


The sample was composed of 16 subjects suffering from chronic stroke.


Subjects were enrolled and randomly allocated either in the HITT (N.=8) or in the LITT (N.=8). Both groups performed 3-month training, 3 times per week. Subjects were evaluated before starting the training and after the end of the training by mean of clinical scales (Six-Minute Walk Test, Ten-Meter Walk Test, Health Survey Questionnaire SF-36, Stroke Impact Scale) and instrumental tests (gait analysis, VO2peak and walking energy cost).


Fifteen subjects completed the study and no dropouts were observed. One patient in the LITT refused to initiate the training. The HITT group produced greater improvements than LITT group on the Six-Minute Walk Test (HITT: 64.25 meters, LITT: 6 meters; p=0.005) and Ten-Meter Walk Test performances (HITT: -1.7 s, LITT: 0.6 s; P=0.007), stride length (HITT: 3.3 cm, LITT: 0.4 cm, P=0.003), step length non-paretic side (HITT: 0.5 cm, LITT: 2.4 cm, P=0.008), step length paretic side (HITT: 1.8 cm, LITT: 0.7 cm, P=0.004), cadence (HITT: 1.6 step/min, LITT: 0.6 step/min, P=0.021) and symmetry ratio (HITT: 0.04 cm, LITT: 0.01 cm, P=0.004), VO2peak (HITT: 4.6 mL/kg/min, LITT: 0.87 mL/kg/min; P=0.015) and walking energy cost at 100% of self-selected speed (HITT: -30.8 mL/kg∙km, LITT: -20 5 mL/kg∙km; P=0.021). Significant changes were found on Six-Minute Walk Test (P=0.012) and Ten-Meter Walk Test (P=0.042) performances, spatio-temporal gait parameters (stride length P=0.011, step length paretic side P=0.012, cadence P=0.037 and symmetry ratio P=0.012), VO2peak (P=0.025) and cost of walking at 100% of self-selected speed (P=0.018) in the HITT group. In the LITT no significant results were observed.


HITT could be considered a feasible training and led to improvement in gait ability and enhanced VO2peak and reduction in cost of walking compared to LITT.

Training to achieve over ground walking after spinal cord injury: A review of who, what, when, and how

Date: 2012 Sep; 35(5):293-304.

Authors: Jaynie F. Yang & Kristen E. Musselman

Publication: Spinal Cord Med.

PubMed ID: 23031166



(1) To provide clinicians with the best evidence for effective retraining of walking after spinal cord injury (SCI) to achieve over ground walking. (2) To identify gaps in our knowledge to guide future research.


Articles that addressed the retraining of walking in adults with SCI and reported outcome measures of over ground walking ability were identified through a non-systematic search of the PubMed, Scopus, and CINAHL databases. No restriction was applied to the method of training. Selected articles were appraised using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale. Information was synthesized to answer who best responds to what type of treatment, how that treatment should be delivered, and at what stage after injury.


Individuals with motor incomplete SCI (American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment scale (AIS) C and D) are most likely to regain walking over ground. The effective methods of training all involved a substantial component of walking in the training, and if assistance was provided, partial assistance was more effective than total assistance. Walking training resulted in a change in over ground walking speed of 0.06–0.77 m/s, and 6 minute walk distance of 24–357 m. The effective training schedules ranged from 10 to 130 sessions, with a density of sessions ranging from 2 per week to 5 per week. Earlier training led to superior results both in the subacute (<6 months) and chronic phases (>6 months) after injury, but even individuals with chronic injuries of long duration can improve.


Frequent, early treatment for individuals with motor incomplete SCI using walking as the active ingredient whether on the treadmill or over ground, generally leads to improved walking over ground. Much work remains for the future, including better quantification of treatment intensity, better outcome measures to quantify a broader range of walking skills, and better ways to retrain individuals with more severe lesions (AIS A and B).