PURPOSE: The Lokomat is a commercially available robotic gait trainer, applied for gait rehabilitation in post-stroke hemiparetic patients. Selective and well-dosed clinical use of the Lokomat training parameters, i.e. guidance, speed and bodyweight support, requires a good understanding of how these parameters affect the neuromuscular control of post-stroke hemiparetic gait.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Ten stroke patients (unilateral paresis, 7 females, 64.5 ± 6.4 years, >3months post-stroke, FAC scores 2-4)) walked in the Lokomat under varying parameter settings: 50% or 100% guidance, 0.28 or 0.56m/s, 0% or 50% bodyweight support. Electromyography was recorded bilaterally from Gluteus Medius, Biceps Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Medial Gastrocnemius, and Tibialis Anterior. Pressure sensors placed under the feet were used to determine the level of temporal gait symmetry.
RESULTS: Varying guidance and bodyweight support had little effect on muscle activity, but increasing treadmill speed led to increased activity in both the affected (Biceps Femoris, Medial Gastrocnemius, Tibialis Anterior) and unaffected leg (all muscles). The level of temporal symmetry was unaffected by the parameter settings.
CONCLUSIONS: The Lokomat training parameters are generally ineffective in shaping short term muscle activity and step symmetry patients with hemiparetic stroke, as speed is the only parameter that significantly affects muscular amplitude.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: d.n.a. IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION The Lokomat is a commercially available gait trainer that can be used for gait rehabilitation in post-stroke hemiparetic patients. This study shows that muscle amplitude is generally low during Lokomat guided walking, and that treadmill Speed is the main training parameter to influence muscular output in stroke patients during Lokomat walking. Varying Guidance and Bodyweight Support within a clinical relevant range barely affected muscle activity, and temporal step symmetry was unaffected by variation in any of the training parameters. Based on the findings it is advised to increase speed as early as possible during Lokomat therapy, or use other means (e.g. feedback or instructions) to stimulate active involvement of patients during training.