Eich et al.: Aerobic treadmill plus Bobath walking training improves walking in subacute stroke: a randomized controlled trial
To evaluate the immediate and long-term effects of aerobic treadmill plus Bobath walking training in subacute stroke survivors compared with Bobath walking training alone.
Randomized controlled trial.
Fifty patients, first-time supratentorial stroke, stroke interval less than six weeks, Barthel Index (0-100) from 50 to 80, able to walk a minimum distance of 12 m with either intermittent help or stand-by while walking, cardiovascular stable, minimum 50 W in the bicycle ergometry, randomly allocated to two groups, A and B.
Group A 30 min of treadmill training, harness secured and minimally supported according to patients’ needs, and 30 min of physiotherapy, every workday for six weeks, speed and inclination of the treadmill were adjusted to achieve a heart rate of HR: (Hrmax-HRrest)*0.6+HRrest; in group B 60 min of daily physiotherapy for six weeks.
Primary outcome variables were the absolute improvement of walking velocity (m/s) and capacity (m), secondary were gross motor function including walking ability (score out of 13) and walking quality (score out of 41), blindly assessed before and after the intervention, and at follow-up three months later.
Patients tolerated the aerobic training well with no side-effects, significantly greater improvement of walking velocity and capacity both at study end (p =0.001 versus p =0.002) and at follow-up (p <0.001 versus p <0.001) in the experimental group. Between weeks 0 and 6, the experimental group improved walking speed and capacity by a mean of.31 m/s and 91 m, the control group by a mean of 0.16 m/s and 56 m. Between weeks 0 and 18, the experimental group improved walking speed and capacity by a mean of 0.36 m/s and 111 m, the control group by a mean of 0.15 m/s and 57 m. Gross motor function and walking quality did not differ at any time.
Aerobic treadmill plus Bobath walking training in moderately affected stroke patients was better than Bobath walking training alone with respect to the improvement of walking velocity and capacity. The treatment approach is recommended in patients meeting the inclusion criteria. A multicentre trial should follow to strengthen the evidence.