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Randomized Controlled Trial
, 66 (4), 484-93

Weight-supported Treadmill vs Over-Ground Training for Walking After Acute Incomplete SCI

Randomized Controlled Trial

Weight-supported Treadmill vs Over-Ground Training for Walking After Acute Incomplete SCI

B Dobkin et al. Neurology.


Objective: To compare the efficacy of step training with body weight support on a treadmill (BWSTT) with over-ground practice to the efficacy of a defined over-ground mobility therapy (CONT) in patients with incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) admitted for inpatient rehabilitation.

Methods: A total of 146 subjects from six regional centers within 8 weeks of SCI were entered in a single-blinded, multicenter, randomized clinical trial (MRCT). Subjects were graded on the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (ASIA) as B, C, or D with levels from C5 to L3 and had a Functional Independence Measure for locomotion (FIM-L) score < 4. They received 12 weeks of equal time of BWSTT or CONT. Primary outcomes were FIM-L for ASIA B and C subjects and walking speed for ASIA C and D subjects 6 months after SCI.

Results: No significant differences were found at entry between treatment groups or at 6 months for FIM-L (n = 108) or walking speed and distance (n = 72). In the upper motor neuron (UMN) subjects, 35% of ASIA B, 92% of ASIA C, and all ASIA D subjects walked independently. Velocities for UMN ASIA C and D subjects were not significantly different for BWSTT (1.1 +/- 0.6 m/s, n = 30) and CONT (1.1 +/- 0.7, n = 25) groups.

Conclusions: The physical therapy strategies of body weight support on a treadmill and defined overground mobility therapy did not produce different outcomes. This finding was partly due to the unexpectedly high percentage of American Spinal Injury Association C subjects who achieved functional walking speeds, irrespective of treatment. The results provide new insight into disability after incomplete spinal cord injury and affirm the importance of the multicenter, randomized clinical trial to test rehabilitation strategies.

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure: The authors report no conflicts of interest.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Flow diagram of progress through the phases of screening, enrollment, allocation, follow-up, and data analyses of the SCILT. UMN = upper motor neuron group; LMN = lower motor neuron group; B, C, and D = ASIA classifications; BWSTT = step training using body weight support on a treadmill group; CONT = defined over-ground mobility control group.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Comparison of walking speed at end of intervention (3 months) and at time of primary outcome analysis in ASIA B, C, and D subjects who were able to walk and had complete data at 6 months.

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