Pilot study of locomotion improvement using hybrid assistive limb in chronic stroke patients
1 Faculty of Engineering, Information and Systems, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
2 Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
3 Tsukuba Critical Path Research and Education Integrated Leading Center (CREIL), University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
4 Center for Cybernics Research (CCR), University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
BMC Neurology 2013, 13:141 doi:10.1186/1471-2377-13-141Published: 7 October 2013
Locomotor training using robots is increasingly being used for rehabilitation to reduce manpower and the heavy burden on therapists, and the effectiveness of such techniques has been investigated. The robot suit Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) has been developed to rehabilitate or support motor function in people with disabilities. The HAL provides motion support that is tailored to the wearer’s voluntary drive. We performed a pilot clinical trial to investigate the feasibility of locomotor training using the HAL in chronic stroke patients, and to examine differences between two functional ambulation subgroups.
Sixteen stroke patients in the chronic stage participated in this study. All patients were trained with the HAL over 16 sessions (20–30 min/day within 2 days/week). Primary outcomes were walking speed, cadence, and number of steps recorded during a 10-meter walk test (10MWT). Berg balance scale (BBS) and timed up and go (TUG) were also measured. All outcome measures were evaluated without wearing HAL assistance before and after the intervention in all patients as well as in the dependent ambulatory and independent ambulatory subgroups.
All participants completed the intervention with no adverse events. Gait speed, cadence, number of steps during the 10MWT, and BBS increased significantly from 0.41 m/s to 0.45 m/s (P = 0.031), from 68.6 steps/min to 72.0 steps/min (P = 0.020), from 37.5 steps to 33.1 steps (P = 0.017), and from 40.6 to 45.4 (P = 0.004) respectively. The TUG test score improved, although this difference was not statistically significant. The findings in the dependent ambulatory subgroup primarily contributed to the significant differences observed in the group as a whole.
This pilot study showed that locomotor training using the HAL is feasible for chronic stroke patients. Randomized controlled trials are now required to demonstrate the effectiveness of HAL-based rehabilitation over conventional therapies.