BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The recovery of walking after a stroke is a key functional goal for many patients. Reports vary, but approximately 50-80% of patients will regain some degree of walking ability following stroke (Skilbeck et al., 1983). There are few data available to show whether different subclassifications of stroke have distinct patterns of gait recovery. The present paper describes the pattern of walking recovery in a population of stroke patients classified according to the Oxfordshire Community Stroke Project classification (Bamford et al., 1991). METHOD: A prospective observational study. Stroke patients (n = 238) admitted to the inpatient Stroke Rehabilitation Unit at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh were initially included, with data for 185 patients ultimately available for analysis. Standardized measures of recovery of 10 steps and a 10-metre walk were used routinely to examine recovery time of walking ability. The main outcome measures consisted of days taken to achieve a 10-step walk, days to achieve a 10-metre walk, and initial and discharge gait velocity over 10 meters. RESULTS: Eighty-nine per cent of the sample (n = 164) achieved a 10-step walk in a median time of five days and a 10-metre walk in eight days. The median initial gait velocity was 0.45 m/s which improved by discharge to 0.55 m/s. Further analysis by subgroup revealed that subjects sustaining a partial anterior circulation infarct, lacunar infarct or posterior circulation infarct recovered significantly more quickly than those subjects with a total anterior circulation infarct (Kruskal Wallis test for days to achieve 10 steps (H = 22.524, N = 164, df = 3) p < 0.001; Kruskal Wallis test for days to achieve a 10-metre walk (H = 22.586, N = 164, df = 3) p < 0.001. CONCLUSIONS: An hierarchical pattern of recovery of gait was observed with definite variation between the subclassifications of stroke. It is suggested that further work needs to be undertaken to identify more accurately the factors that may influence the recovery of walking following stroke
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