Background and Objectives: Gait disorders represent one of the most disabling aspects in multiple sclerosis (MS) that strongly influence patient quality of life. The improvement of walking ability is a primary goal for rehabilitation treatment. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of robot-assisted gait training (RAGT) in association with physiotherapy treatment in patients affected by MS in comparison with ground conventional gait training. Study design: Randomized controlled crossover trial. Materials and Methods: Twenty-seven participants affected by MS with EDSS scores between 3.5 and 7 were enrolled, of whom seventeen completed the study. They received five training sessions per week over five weeks of conventional gait training with (experimental group) or without (control group) the inclusion of RAGT. The patients were prospectively evaluated before and after the first treatment session and, after the crossover phase, before and after the second treatment session. The evaluation was based on the 25-foot walk test (25FW, main outcome), 6 min walk test (6MWT), Tinetti Test, Modified Ashworth Scale, and modified Motricity Index for lower limbs. We also measured disability parameters using Functional Independence Measure and Quality of Life Index, and instrumental kinematic and gait parameters: knee extensor strength, double-time support, step length ratio; 17 patients reached the final evaluation. Results: Both groups significantly improved on gait parameters, motor abilities, and autonomy recovery in daily living activities with generally better results of RAGT over control treatment. In particular, the RAGT group improved more than control group in the 25FW (p = 0.004) and the 6MWT (p = 0.022). Conclusions: RAGT is a valid treatment option that in association with physiotherapy could induce positive effects in MS-correlated gait disorders. Our results showed greater effectiveness in recovering gait speed and resistance than conventional gait training.
Keywords: exercise; gait recovery; multiple sclerosis; rehabilitation; robotic training.