Enhanced life-role participation in response to comprehensive gait training in chronic stroke survivors*
Purpose: Intensive gait training can produce improvements in gait and function (> 6 months after stroke); findings are mixed for enhanced life role participation. Therefore, it is unclear if improved gait and function translate into life role participation gain. Our objective was to evaluate whether intensive gait therapy can produce significant improvements in life role participation for chronic stroke survivors. Methods: In conjunction with a clinical gait training trial, we conducted a secondary analysis for a 44-member cohort with stroke (>6 months). Gait training interventions included exercise, body weight supported treadmill training (BWSTT), over-ground gait training, and functional electrical stimulation (FES) for 1.5 h/day, 4 days/wk for 12 weeks. Study measures included Tinetti Gait (TG) (gait impairment), Functional Independence Measure (FIM, function), Stroke Impact Scale Subscale of Life Role Participation (SISpart), and Craig Handicap Assessment & Reporting Technique (CHART, life-role participation). Analyses included Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test and PLUM Regression Model. Results: Gait interventions produced significant improvement in CHART (p = 0.020), SISpart (p = 0.011), FIM (p < 0.0001), and Tinetti Gait (p < 0.0001). Age, gender and time since stroke did not predict response to treatment. Conclusions: Intensive, multi-modal, long-duration gait therapy resulted in significant gain in life-role participation, according to a relatively comprehensive, homogeneous measure. Implications for Rehabilitation It is important to measure life role participation in rehabilitation intervention studies, and using a homogenous measure of life role participation provides clear results. Intensive gait training produced a significant improvement in life role participation in the chronic phase after stroke. Functional electrical stimulation (FES) had no significant additive effect on life role participation during the treatment phase, but FES did have an additive effect during the follow-up period, in enhancing life role participation beyond that obtained using an identical comprehensive gait training intervention without FES.