BACKGROUND: Gait training with the help of assistive technological devices is an innovative field of research in neurological rehabilitation. Most of the available gait training devices do not allow free movement in the environment, which would be the most suitable natural and motivating condition for training children with neurological gait impairment. AIM: To evaluate the potential applicability of a new robotic walking aid as a tool for gait training in non-ambulatory children with Cerebral Palsy. DESIGN: Single case study SETTING:Outpatient regimen POPULATION: A 11-years-old child unable to stand and walk independently as a result of spastic tetraplegic cerebral palsy (CP). METHODS: The experimental device was a newly actuated version of a dynamic combined walking and standing aid (NF-Walker®) available in the market which was modified by means of two pneumatic artificial muscles driven by a foot-switch inserted in the shoes. The child was tested at baseline (while maintaining the standing position aided by the non-actuated NF-Walker®) and in the experimental condition (while using the actuated robotic aid). The outcome measures were: 2-minute walking test, 10-metre walking test, respiratory and heart parameters, energy cost of locomotion. RESULTS: At baseline, the child was unable to perform any autonomous form of locomotion. When assisted by the actuated aid (i.e. during the experimental condition), the child was successful in moving around in his environment. His performance was 19.63 m in the 2-minute walking test and 64 s in the 10-metre walking test. Respiratory and heart parameters were higher than healthy age-matched children both at baseline and in the experimental condition. The energy cost of gait, which was not valuable in the baseline condition, was significantly higher than normality during the experimental condition. CONCLUSION: The new robotic walking aid may help children suffering from CP with severe impairment of gait to move around in their environment. CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: This new robotic walking device may have a potential impact in stimulating the development and in training of gait in children with neurological gait impairment. Future studies are warranted in order to test this hypothesis.
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