Effect of Virtual Reality Gait Training on Participation in Survivors of Subacute Stroke: Randomized Controlled Trial

Phys Ther. 2021 Feb 16;pzab051. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzab051. Online ahead of print.


Objective: After stroke, people experience difficulties with walking that lead to restrictions in participation in daily life. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of virtual reality gait training (VRT) compared to non-virtual reality gait training (non-VRT) on participation in community-living people after stroke.

Methods: In this assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial with 2 parallel groups, people were included between 2 weeks and 6 months after stroke and randomly assigned to the VRT group or non-VRT group. Participants assigned to the VRT group received training on the Gait Real-time Analysis Interactive Lab (GRAIL), and participants assigned to the non-VRT group received treadmill training and functional gait exercises without virtual reality. Both training interventions consisted of 12 30-minute sessions during 6 weeks. Primary outcome was participation measured with the restrictions subscale of the Utrecht Scale for Evaluation of Rehabilitation-Participation (USER-P) 3 months postintervention. Secondary outcomes included subjective physical functioning, functional mobility, walking ability, dynamic balance, walking activity, fatigue, anxiety and depression, falls efficacy, and quality of life.

Results: Twenty-eight participants were randomized to the VRT group and 27 to the non-VRT group, of which 25 and 22 attended 75% or more of the training sessions, respectively. No significant differences between the groups were found over time for the USER-P restrictions subscale (1.23; 95% CI = -0.76 to 3.23) or secondary outcome measures. Patients' experiences with VRT were positive, and no serious adverse events were related to the interventions.

Conclusions: The effect of VRT was not statistically different from non-VRT in improving participation in community-living people after stroke.

Impact: Although outcomes were not statistically different, treadmill-based VRT was a safe and well-tolerated intervention that was positively rated by people after stroke. VR training might, therefore, be a valuable addition to stroke rehabilitation.

Keywords: Gait: Gait Training; Participation; Rehabilitation; Stroke; Virtual Reality.