Effects of vestibular rehabilitation on gait performance in poststroke patients: a pilot randomized controlled trial.

The effects of vestibular rehabilitation on poststroke patients are unknown. This study aimed to investigate whether or not vestibular rehabilitation would improve both the vestibulo-ocular reflex and gait performance of patients with poststroke hemiparesis. Twenty-eight patients with stroke were assigned randomly to either an experimental group (N=14) or a control group (N=14).

The experimental group performed the conventional physical therapy for 40 min and vestibular rehabilitation for 20 min, as a 60 min session, during the first 3 weeks and then completed only the conventional intervention for 60 min for the following 3 weeks. The control group performed only the 60 min conventional physical therapy for 6 weeks. Both groups were measured using the gaze stabilization test, the 10 m walking test, the timed up and go test, and the dynamic gait index. Patients were assessed at baseline, and at 3 and 6 weeks.

Although the control group showed no significant difference in any outcome measures, the experimental group showed an improvement in gaze stabilization test scoring, which increased significantly after 3 weeks compared with the baseline (P=0.030). The dynamic gait index was also significantly increased after 3 and 6 weeks compared with the baseline (P=0.049 and 0.024, respectively).

This study indicated that vestibular rehabilitation might improve poststroke patients’ vestibulo-ocular reflex. Moreover, patients might show improved gait performance at least up to 3 weeks after the vestibular intervention by the sensory reweight to coordinate vestibular input.