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Treadmill training with partial body weight support after stroke: A review


Restoration and improvement of gait after stroke are major aspects of neurorehabilitation. Mobilization out of the bed into the wheelchair and verticalisation with the help of a standing frame are first steps. With the patient cardiovascular stable, gait restoration is put on the agenda. Instead of tone-inhibiting and gait preparatory maneuvers, patients should practice complex gait cycles repetitively. Treadmill training with partial body weight support enables the harness-secured patients to practice numerous steps assisted by two or three therapists. In controlled studies, it proved equally effective as walking on the floor. Gait machines, as the Lokomat or the Gait Trainer GTI, intend to relieve the strenuous effort for the therapists. For the GTI, several controlled trials showed a superior effect in acute stroke patients with respect to walking ability and velocity. For the ambulatory patient, aerobic treadmill training is effective to improve speed and endurance without worsening gait quality. Belt velocity and inclination are gradually increased so that the patients reach a predefined target heart rate. On the belt, patients walk more symmetrically, and higher velocities result in a facilitation of paretic muscles and render gait more efficient. In summary, gait rehabilitation has seen dramatic changes over the last years. More is to be expected.