Effects of robotic-assisted gait training on the central vascular health of individuals with spinal cord injury: A pilot study.

James Faulkner, Louis Martinelli, Kirsty Cook, Lee Stoner, Helen Ryan-Stewart, Eloise Paine, Helen Hobbs, Danielle Lambrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To investigate the effect of a short-term, robotic-assisted (exoskeleton) gait training (RGT) program on central and peripheral hemodynamic measures in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). Design: Parallel group, non-randomized trial with before (baseline) and after (follow-up) assessments. Setting: Single-center, community-based neuro-physiotherapy practice. Participants: Twelve individuals with SCI (ASI A to C). Interventions: Participants completed either a 5-day RGT program plus physiotherapy (n = 6), or a usual care physiotherapy only program (control group; n = 6). The RGT program consisted of daily 60-min physiotherapy and 90-min of RGT. Outcome measures were measured before and after the rehabilitation program. Main outcome measure(s): The primary outcome measure was arterial wave reflection (Augmentation index [AIx]), with central and peripheral blood pressures also reported. Data are presented as mean (SD) and effect sizes (partial eta squared; η2 p). Results: There was a significant reduction in AIx (30 ± 18–21 ± 15%; η2 p=0.75) and mean arterial pressure (89 ± 11–82 ± 10 mmHg; η2 p=0.47) following completion of the RGT program (both P < 0.05). There were no changes in these measures for the control group. Although not significantly different, medium to large effects were observed in favor of RGT for all other central and peripheral measures (η2 p=0.06–0.21), except for heart rate and pulse pressure (η2 p<0.04). Conclusions: RGT using an exoskeleton is a promising therapy for improving cardiovascular health in patients with SCI. Specifically, this study indicates decreased arterial wave reflection and supports the need for larger randomized controlled trials. Trial Registration: Clinical trials Registry (https://clinicaltrials.gov/; NCT03611803).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2019


  • SCI
  • Blood pressure
  • Rehabilitation
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Robotics

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