It has been reported that only half of the non-ambulatory stroke patients admitted to inpatient rehabilitation in Australia learn to walk again . Treadmill walking with partial weight support via an overhead harness is a relatively new intervention that is designed to train walking. The main objective of this randomised controlled trail is to determine whether treadmill walking with partial weight support via an overhead harness is effective at establishing independent walking (i) more often, (ii) earlier and (iii) with a better quality of walking, than current physiotherapy intervention for non-ambulatory stroke patients.
A prospective, randomised controlled trial of inpatient intervention with a 6 month follow-up with blinded assessment will be conducted. 130 stroke patients who are unable to walk independently early after stroke will be recruited and randomly allocated to a control group or an experimental group. The control group will undertake 30 min of routine assisted overground walking while the experimental group will undertake 30 min of treadmill walking with partial weight support via an overhead harness per day. The proportion of participants achieving independent walking, the quality of walking, and community participation will be measured. The study has obtained ethical approval from the Human Research Ethics Committees of each of the sites involved in the study.
Given that the Australian population is ageing and people after stroke can expect to live for longer, attainment of safe, independent walking is more likely to be associated with long-term health and well being. In its National Research Priorities, the Government has recognised that it will be important to promote healthy ageing and that this endeavour will be underpinned by research. The results of this study will clearly identify effective intervention to establish early quality walking, thereby promoting an increase in community participation in the longer term.
The protocol for this study is registered with US NIH Clinical trials registry (NCT00167531)