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Manually assisted body-weight supported locomotor training does not re-establish walking in non-walking subjects with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury: a randomized clinical trial [with consumer summary]
Piira A, Lannem AM, Sorensen M, Glott T, Knutsen R, Jorgensen L, Gjesdal K, Hjeltnes N, Knutsen SF
Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 2019 Feb 1;51(2):113-119
clinical trial
7/10 [Eligibility criteria: Yes; Random allocation: Yes; Concealed allocation: Yes; Baseline comparability: Yes; Blind subjects: No; Blind therapists: No; Blind assessors: Yes; Adequate follow-up: Yes; Intention-to-treat analysis: No; Between-group comparisons: Yes; Point estimates and variability: Yes. Note: Eligibility criteria item does not contribute to total score] *This score has been confirmed*

OBJECTIVE: To assess the effects of manually assisted body-weight supported locomotor training in subjects with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury. DESIGN: Randomized controlled clinical trial. SUBJECTS: Twenty subjects with American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale grades C or D and > 2 years post-injury. METHODS: Random allocation to 60 days of body-weight supported locomotor training, or usual care, which might include over-ground walking. Walking function, lower extremity muscle strength and balance were blindly evaluated pre-/post-intervention. RESULTS: A small, non-significant improvement in walking function was observed (0.1 m/s (95% confidence interval (95% CI) -0.2 to 0.4)), but subjects without baseline gait function, did not re-establish walking. The effect on lower extremity muscle strength was 2.7 points (95% CI -1.4 to 6.8). No difference was observed in balance measures. CONCLUSION: Subjects with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury without baseline walking function were unable to re-establish gait with manually assisted body-weight supported locomotor training. A modest, non-significant, improvement was found in strength and walking speed. However, due to study recruitment problems, an effect size that was smaller than anticipated, and large functional heterogeneity among study subjects, the effect of late-onset body-weight supported locomotor training is not clear. Future studies should include larger numbers of subjects with less functional loss and greater functional homogeneity. Intensive training should probably start earlier post-injury.

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