The Kickstart Walk Assist System for improving balance and walking function in stroke survivors: a feasibility study

Jiajia Yao, Takashi Sado, Wenli Wang, Jiawen Gao, Yichao Zhao, Qi Qi, Mukul Mukherjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Compared with traditional physical therapy for stroke patients, lower extremity exoskeletons can provide patients with greater endurance and more repeatable and controllable training, which can reduce the therapeutic burden of the therapist. However, most exoskeletons are expensive, heavy or require active power to be operated. Therefore, a lighter, easy to wear, easy to operate, low-cost technology for stroke rehabilitation would be a welcome opportunity for stroke survivors, caregivers and clinicians. One such device is the Kickstart Walk Assist system and the purpose of this study was to determine feasibility of using this unpowered exoskeleton device in a sample of stroke survivors. Methods: Thirty stroke survivors were enrolled in the study and experienced walking with the Kickstart exoskeleton device that provided spring-loaded assistance during gait. After 5 days of wearing the exoskeleton, participants were evaluated in the two states of wearing and not wearing the exoskeleton. Outcome measures included: (a) spatio-temporal gait measures, (b) balance measures and (c) exoskeleton-use feedback questionnaire. Results: In comparison to not wearing the device, when participants wore the Kickstart walking system, weight bearing asymmetry was reduced. The time spent on the 10-m walk test was also reduced, but there was no difference in the timed-up-and-go test (TUGT). Gait analysis data showed reduction in step time and double support time. Stroke survivors were positive about the Kickstart walking system’s ability to improve their balance, speed and gait. In addition, their confidence level and willingness to use the device was also positive. Conclusions: These findings show the feasibility of using the Kickstart walking system for improving walking performance in stroke survivors. Our future goal is to perform a longer duration study with more comprehensive pre- and post-testing in a larger sample of stroke survivors. Trial registration Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, ChiCTR2000032665. Registered 5 May 2020—Retrospectively registered, http://www.chictr.org.cn/showproj.aspx?proj=53288

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number42
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Exoskeleton
  • Exotendon
  • Gait
  • Rehabilitation
  • Robotics
  • Walking
  • Wearable

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics

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