Effects of a wearable exoskeleton stride management assist system (SMA®) on spatiotemporal gait characteristics in individuals after stroke: a randomized controlled trial

Robots offer an alternative, potentially advantageous method of providing repetitive, high-dosage, and high-intensity training to address the gait impairments caused by stroke. This study compared the effects of the Stride Management Assist (SMA®) System with functional task specific training (FTST) on spatiotemporal gait parameters in stroke survivors. This was achieved through a single blinded RCT including 50 participants who were randomly assigned to FTST or SMA. Subjects in both groups received training 3 times per week for 6–8 weeks for a maximum of 18 training sessions. The GAITRite® system was used to collect data on subjects’ spatiotemporal gait characteristics before training (baseline), at mid-training, post-training, and at a 3-month follow-up. After training, significant improvements in gait parameters were observed in both training groups compared to baseline, including an increase in velocity and cadence, a decrease in swing time on the impaired side, a decrease in double support time, an increase in stride length on impaired and non-impaired sides, and an increase in step length on impaired and non-impaired sides. No significant differences were observed between training groups; except for SMA group, step length on the impaired side increased significantly during self-selected walking speed trials and spatial asymmetry decreased significantly during fast-velocity walking trials.

SMA and FTST interventions provided similar, significant improvements in spatiotemporal gait parameters; however, the SMA group showed additional improvements across more parameters at various time points. These results indicate that the SMA® device could be a useful therapeutic tool to improve spatiotemporal parameters and contribute to improved functional mobility in stroke survivors. Further research is needed to determine the feasibility of using this device in a home setting vs a clinic setting, and whether such home use provides continued benefits.