Energy expenditure during walking with weight-bearing control (WBC) orthosis in thoracic level of paraplegic patients.

Design: Comparative study of the effectiveness of walking exercise with a newly developed gait orthosis, the weight-bearing control (WBC) orthosis, for thoracic level of paraplegic patients.

Objective: To test its feasibility as a rehabilitation alternative for paraplegic patients, the energy consumption and cost during walking with WBC were calculated and compared with the values of conventional orthoses given in previous reports.

Setting: National Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled, Japan.

Methods: Four paraplegic patients with traumatic spinal cord injuries ranging from T8 to T12 participated. Experiments were conducted after 3 months of the orthotic gait training with WBC. The cardiorespiratory parameters were continuously measured at rest and during walking with a telemetric device. The steady-state value of the oxygen uptake (V(O2)), heart rate (HR), the energy consumption (J/kg/s) and energy cost (J/kg/m) were calculated. p. Results: The average walking speed was 19.0 +/- 2.58 m/min. The steady-state value of the V(O2) and HR were 16.08 +/- 1.93 ml/kg and 147.3 +/- 10.94 b/min, respectively. The energy cost during orthotic walking tended to be better than the values of conventional orthoses, whereas the energy consumption was almost similar.

Conclusion: WBC enables thoracic level of paraplegic patients to walk at relatively higher speed than conventional orthoses under similar energy expenditure. The special devices equipped with WBC are therefore considered to lead to improvement of the energy cost of walking. The physical intensity presumed by cardiorespiratory responses during walking with WBC is suited to promote their aerobic capacity. Therefore, it is concluded that the WBC orthosis could be an effective alternative in rehabilitation for thoracic level of paraplegic patients.