The objective was to study the application of partial weight-bearing (PWB) supported treadmill gait training augmented by functional electric stimulation (FES) in subjects with acute incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI). Fourteen inpatients with acute incomplete SCI with American Spinal Injury Association class C or D injury participated in the study. Training consisted of treadmill walking with PWB support augmented by FES. Subjects walked on the treadmill for up to 25 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 4 weeks. The intervention was compared with a 4-week control period in which standard PT was given. A greater increase in overground walking endurance was achieved after the intervention (AB group mean, 72.2m; confidence interval [CI], 39.8–104.6m; BA group mean, 63.8m; CI, –10.2 to 137.9m), as compared with after standard PT (AB group mean, 38.4m; CI, 1.8–75.0m; BA group mean, 60.1m; CI, 9.2–110.9m). A similar pattern was observed for overground walking speed. This pilot study indicated that PWB supported treadmill training with FES had a positive effect on overground gait parameters and could potentially accelerate gait training in subjects with incomplete SCI. A larger randomized trial is required to substantiate these findings.
- spinal cord injury