Background: The most prominent characteristics of hemiparetic cerebral palsy (hCP) children are structural and functional asymmetries. These children have low walking speeds, endurance and poor balance. The robotic walking devices repeat and experience symmetrical stepping at the corresponding speed and angles of the lower extremities. RESEARCH QUESTION 1: Are robotic walking devices effective in the development of walking in hCP children who can walk? RESEARCH QUESTION 2: How does the aerobic exercise experience with assisted and symmetrical movement affect the walking and local muscle, peripheral oxygenation of children with hCP?
Methods: This prospective, controlled study included 24 children with hCP. All children attended to a standard physiotherapy rehabilitation (PTR) program (three days a week for 12 weeks); those in the study group (n=12) also attended to an Robotic Gait Training (RGT) program three times a week. Evaluations performed before treatment, after treatment, and at the 3rd month after treatment included assessment of balance, functionality walking and measurements for oxygenation of vastus lateralis muscle and peripheral oxygenation.
Results: The evaluations were similar for both groups before treatment. After treatment, walking speed, endurance and peripheral O2 saturation were increased and balance abilities and functional performances improved in the RGT group as compared with the pre-treatment evaluations; these improvements in balance and functional performance were generally preserved after 3 months of treatment. An increase in 6-min walking distance and a partial increase in gross motor functions and functional muscle strength were observed in the control group; however, these abilities were not preserved after the treatment.
Significance: RGT can provide a faster and higher effect on the development of functional muscle strength, balance, walking speed and endurance than the standard PTR program. It improves functional walking performance. RGT can be used for aerobic exercise training in children with walking hCP.
Keywords: Cerebral palsy; Robotic rehabilitation; Walking.
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