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      Gait training early after stroke with a new exoskeleton – the hybrid assistive limb: a study of safety and feasibility


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          Intensive task specific training early after stroke may enhance beneficial neuroplasticity and functional recovery. Impaired gait after hemiparetic stroke remains a challenge that may be approached early after stroke by use of novel technology. The aim of the study was to investigate the safety and feasibility of the exoskeleton Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) for intensive gait training as part of a regular inpatient rehabilitation program for hemiparetic patients with severely impaired gait early after stroke.


          Eligible were patients until 7 weeks after hemiparetic stroke. Training with HAL was performed 5 days per week by the autonomous and/or the voluntary control mode offered by the system. The study protocol covered safety and feasibility issues and aspects on motor function, gait performance according to the 10 Meter Walking Test (10MWT) and Functional Ambulation Categories (FAC), and activity performance.


          Eight patients completed the study. Median time from stroke to inclusion was 35 days (range 6 to 46). Training started by use of the autonomous HAL mode in all and later switched to the voluntary mode in all but one and required one or two physiotherapists. Number of training sessions ranged from 6 to 31 (median 17) and walking time per session was around 25 minutes. The training was well tolerated and no serious adverse events occurred. All patients improved their walking ability during the training period, as reflected by the 10MWT (from 111.5 to 40 seconds in median) and the FAC (from 0 to 1.5 score in median).


          The HAL system enables intensive training of gait in hemiparetic patients with severely impaired gait function early after stroke. The system is safe when used as part of an inpatient rehabilitation program for these patients by experienced physiotherapists.

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          We developed the Falls Efficacy Scale (FES), an instrument to measure fear of falling, based on the operational definition of this fear as "low perceived self-efficacy at avoiding falls during essential, nonhazardous activities of daily living." The reliability and validity of the FES were assessed in two samples of community-living elderly persons. The FES showed good test-retest reliability (Pearson's correlation 0.71). Subjects who reported avoiding activities because of fear of falling had higher FES scores, representing lower self-efficacy or confidence, than subjects not reporting fear of falling. The independent predictors of FES score were usual walking pace (a measure of physical ability), anxiety, and depression. The FES appears to be a reliable and valid method for measuring fear of falling. This instrument may be useful in assessing the independent contribution of fear of falling to functional decline among elderly people.
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              What do motor "recovery" and "compensation" mean in patients following stroke?

              There is a lack of consistency among researchers and clinicians in the use of terminology that describes changes in motor ability following neurological injury. Specifically, the terms and definitions of motor compensation and motor recovery have been used in different ways, which is a potential barrier to interdisciplinary communication. This Point of View describes the problem and offers a solution in the form of definitions of compensation and recovery at the neuronal, motor performance, and functional levels within the framework of the International Classification of Functioning model.

                Author and article information

                J Neuroeng Rehabil
                J Neuroeng Rehabil
                Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
                BioMed Central
                2 June 2014
                : 11
                : 92
                [1 ]Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Danderyd University Hospital, Building 39, floor 3, SE- 182 88 Stockholm, Sweden
                [2 ]Department of Clinical Sciences Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
                [3 ]Faculty of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan
                Copyright © 2014 Nilsson et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                : 29 January 2014
                : 28 May 2014

                gait, stroke, rehabilitation, robotics


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