BackgroundExoskeleton-assisted walking (EAW) is expected to improve the gait of spinal cord injury (SCI) individuals. However, few studies reported the changes of pulmonary function (PF) parameters after EAW trainings. Hence, we aimed to explore the effect of EAW on PF parameters, 6-min walk test (6MWT) and lower extremity motor score (LEMS) in individuals with SCI and to compare those with conventional trainings.
MethodsIn this prospective, single-center, single-blinded randomized controlled pilot study, 18 SCI participants were randomized into the EAW group (n = 9) and conventional group (n = 9) and received 16 sessions of 50-60 min training (4 days/week, 4 weeks). Pulmonary function parameters consisting of the forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced expiratory flow (FEF), peak expiratory flow, and maximal voluntary ventilation, 6MWT with assisted devices and LEMS were reported pre- and post-training.
ResultsValues of FVC (p = 0.041), predicted FVC% (p = 0.012) and FEV1 (p = 0.013) were significantly greater in EAW group (FVC: 3.8 ± 1.1 L; FVC% pred = 94.1 ± 24.5%; FEV1: 3.5 ± 1.0 L) compared with conventional group (FVC: 2.8 ± 0.8 L; FVC% pred = 65.4 ± 17.6%; FEV1: 2.4 ± 0.6 L) after training. Participants in EAW group completed 6MWT with median 17.3 m while wearing the exoskeleton. There was no difference in LEMS and no adverse event.
ConclusionsThe current results suggest that EAW has potential benefits to facilitate PF parameters among individuals with lower thoracic neurological level of SCI compared with conventional trainings. Additionally, robotic exoskeleton helped walking.
Trial registrationRegistered on 22 May 2020 at Chinese Clinical Trial Registry (ChiCTR2000033166). http://www.chictr.org.cn/edit.aspx?pid=53920&htm=4 .