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Clinical Trial ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01143

Robot-assisted stair climbing training on postural control and sensory integration processes in chronic post-stroke patients: a randomized controlled clinical trial

 Marialuisa Gandolfi1, 2*,  Nicola Valè1, 2, Eleonora Dimitrova1, 2, Maria Elisabetta Zanolin3, Nicola Mattiuz1, 2, Elisa Battistuzzi1, 2,  Marcello Beccari1,  Christian Geroin1,  Alessandro Picelli1, 2, Andreas Waldner4 and  Nicola Smania1, 2, 3
  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Biomedicine, and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Italy
  • 2Integrated University Hospital Verona, Italy
  • 3University of Verona, Italy
  • 4Dipartimento di riabilitazione neurologica, Privatklinik Villa Melitta, Italy

Background: Postural control disturbances are one of the important causes of disability in stroke patients affecting balance and mobility. The impairment of sensory input integration from visual, somatosensory and vestibular systems contributes to postural control disorders in post-stroke patients. Robot-assisted gait training may be considered a valuable tool in improving gait and postural control abnormalities.
Objective: The primary aim of the study was to compare the effects of robot-assisted stair climbing training against sensory integration balance training on static and dynamic balance in chronic stroke patients. The secondary aims were to compare the training effects on sensory integration processes and mobility.
Methods: This single-blind, randomized, controlled trial involved 32 chronic stroke outpatients with postural instability. The experimental group (EG, n = 16) received robot-assisted stair climbing training. The control group (n = 16) received sensory integration balance training. Training protocols lasted for five weeks (50 min/session, two sessions/week). Before, after, and at 1-month follow-up, a blinded rater evaluated patients using a comprehensive test battery. Primary outcome: Berg Balance Scale. Secondary outcomes:10-meter walking test, 6-minute walking test, Dynamic gait index, stair climbing test up and down, the Time Up and Go, and length of sway and sway area of the Center of Pressure (CoP) assessed using the stabilometric assessment.
Results: There was a non-significant main effect of group on primary and secondary outcomes. A significant Time×Group interaction was measured on 6-minute walking test (p= 0.013) and on posturographic outcomes (p=0.005). Post hoc within-group analysis showed only in the EG a significant reduction of sway area and the CoP length on compliant surface in the eyes-closed and dome conditions.
Conclusion: Postural control disorders in patients with chronic stroke may be ameliorated by robot-assisted stair climbing training and sensory integration balance training. The robot-assisted stair climbing training contributed to improving sensorimotor integration processes on compliant surfaces. Clinical trial registration (NCT03566901).

Keywords: Sensory feedback, proprioception (balance) training, Motor skill disorders, postural balance control, sensory function

Received: 07 Mar 2019; Accepted: 10 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Gandolfi, Valè, Dimitrova, Zanolin, Mattiuz, Battistuzzi, Beccari, Geroin, Picelli, Waldner and Smania. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Marialuisa Gandolfi, Department of Neuroscience, Biomedicine, and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Verona, 37134, Veneto, Italy,