Barriers to sEMG Assessment During Overground Robot-Assisted Gait Training in Subacute Stroke Patients

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Background: The limitation to the use of ElectroMyoGraphy (sEMG) in rehabilitation services is in contrast with its potential diagnostic capacity for rational planning and monitoring of the rehabilitation treatments, especially the overground Robot-Assisted Gait Training (o-RAGT).

Objective: To assess the barriers to the implementation of a sEMG-based assessment protocol in a clinical context for evaluating the effects of o-RAGT in subacute stroke patients.

Methods: An observational study was conducted in a rehabilitation hospital. The primary outcome was the success rate of the implementation of the sEMG-based assessment. The number of dropouts and the motivations have been registered. A detailed report on difficulties in implementing the sEMG protocol has been edited for each patient. The educational level and the working status of the staff have been registered. Each member of staff completed a brief survey indicating their level of knowledge of sEMG, using a five-point Likert scale.

Results: The sEMG protocol was carried out by a multidisciplinary team composed of Physical Therapists (PTs) and Biomedical Engineers (BEs). Indeed, the educational level and the expertise of the members of staff influenced the fulfillment of the implementation of the study. The PTs involved in the study did not receive any formal education on sEMG during their course of study. The low success rate (22.7%) of the protocol was caused by several factors which could be grouped in: patient-related barriers; cultural barriers; technical barriers; and administrative barriers.

Conclusions: Since a series of barriers limited the use of sEMG in the clinical rehabilitative environment, concrete actions are needed for disseminating sEMG in rehabilitation services. The sEMG assessment should be included in health systems regulations and specific education should be part of the rehabilitation professionals’ curriculum.

Clinical Trial Registration:www.ClinicalTrials.gov, identifier: NCT03395717.

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