Community ambulation after stroke: how important and obtainable is it and what measures appear predictive?

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2004 Feb;85(2):234-9. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2003.05.002.


Objectives: To assess how important community ambulation is to stroke survivors and to assess the relation between the level of community ambulation achieved and other aspects of mobility.

Design: A multicenter observational survey.

Setting: Community setting in New Zealand.

Participants: One hundred fifteen stroke survivors living at home were referred from physical therapy (PT) services at 3 regional hospitals at the time of discharge and were assessed within 1 week after returning home. Another 15 people with stroke who did not require further PT when discharged were assessed within 2 weeks after they returned home to provide insight into community ambulation status for those without mobility impairment, as recognized by health professionals.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported levels of community ambulation ascertained by questionnaire, gait velocity (m/min), Functional Ambulation Categories (FAC) score, and Rivermead Mobility Index (RMI) score.

Results: Mean gait velocity for the participants was 53.9 m/min (95% confidence interval [CI], 52.3-61.1); mean treadmill distance was 165.5 m (95% CI, 141.6-189.5); median RMI score was 14; and median FAC score was 6. Mobility scores for the 15 people who did not require PT were within the normal range. Based on self-reported levels of ambulation, 19 (14.6%) participants were unable to leave the home unsupervised, 22 (16.9%) were walking as far as the letterbox, 10 (7.6%) were limited to walking within their immediate environment, and 79 (60.7%) could access shopping malls and/or places of interest. Participants with different levels of community ambulation showed a significant difference in gait velocity (P<.001). The ability to "get out and about" in the community was considered to be either essential or very important by 97 subjects (74.6%).

Conclusions: Community ambulation is a meaningful outcome after stroke. However, despite good mobility outcomes on standardized measures for this cohort of home-dwelling stroke survivors, nearly one third were not getting out unsupervised in the community. Furthermore, gait velocity may be a measure that discriminates between different categories of community ambulation. These findings may have implications for PT practice for people with mobility problems after stroke.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dependency, Psychological
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Male
  • Observation
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke / psychology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires