Changes in spatiotemporal gait variables over time during a test of functional capacity after stroke
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BACKGROUND: Gait dysfunction and fatigue are common post-stroke, though it is unclear how extended walking activity, as would be performed during activities of daily living, may change over time. The purpose of this study was to examine if spatial and temporal gait variables deteriorate during an extended bout of walking in a test of functional capacity after stroke. METHODS: 24 community dwelling, independently ambulating individuals greater than 3 months after stroke performed the Six-Minute Walk Test (6MWT). Participants walked over a pressure-sensitive mat on each pass of the 30 m course which recorded spatial and temporal parameters of gait. Mean gait speed and temporal symmetry ratio during each two-minute interval of the 6MWT were examined. Additional post hoc analyses examined the incidence of rests during the 6MWT and changes in gait speed and symmetry. RESULTS: On average, participants demonstrated a 3.4 +/- 6.5 cm/s decrease in speed over time (p= 0.02). Participants who rested were also characterized by increased asymmetry in the final two minutes (p= 0.05). 30% of participants rested at some point during the test, and if a rest was taken, duration increased in the final two minutes (p= 0.001). Examination of factors which may have been associated with resting indicated that resters had poorer balance (p= 0.006) than non-resting participants. CONCLUSION: This study supports previous findings establishing that walking performance after stroke declines over relatively short bouts of functionally-relevant ambulation. Such changes may be associated with both cardiorespiratory and muscular fatigue mechanisms that influence performance. The findings also indicate that rest duration should be routinely quantified during the 6MWT after stroke, and consequently, further research is necessary to determine how to interpret 6MWT scores when resting occurs.
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