Background and Purpose- The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of gait training with a newly developed wearable hip-assist robot on locomotor function and efficiency in patients with chronic stroke. Methods- Twenty-eight patients with stroke with hemiparesis were initially enrolled, and 26 patients completed the randomized controlled trial (14 in the experimental and 12 in the control groups). The experimental group participated in a gait training program over a total of 10 sessions, including 5 treadmill sessions and 5 over-ground gait training sessions while wearing a hip-assist robot, the Gait Enhancing and Motivating System (GEMS, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Suwon, Republic of Korea). The control group received gait training without Gait Enhancing and Motivating System. Primary outcome measured locomotor function and cardiopulmonary metabolic energy efficiency. Also, secondary outcome measured motor function and balance parameter. Results- Compared with the control group, the experimental group had significantly greater improvement in spatiotemporal gait parameters and muscle efforts after the training intervention (P<0.05). The net cardiopulmonary metabolic energy cost (mL·kg-1·min-1) was also reduced by 14.71% in the experimental group after the intervention (P<0.01). Significant group×time interactions were observed for all parameters (P<0.05). Cardiopulmonary metabolic efficiency was strongly correlated with gait symmetry ratio in the experimental group (P<0.01). Conclusions- Gait training with Gait Enhancing and Motivating System was effective for improving locomotor function and cardiopulmonary metabolic energy efficiency during walking in patients with stroke. These findings suggest that robotic locomotor training can be adopted for rehabilitation of patients with stroke with gait disorders. Clinical Trial Registration- URL: https://clinicaltrials.gov. Unique identifier: NCT02843828.
Keywords: gait; locomotion; robotics; stroke rehabilitation; walking.