Adaptation of a smart walker for stroke individuals: a study on sEMG and accelerometer signals

<div><p>Abstract Introduction: Stroke is a leading cause of neuromuscular system damages, and researchers have been studying and developing robotic devices to assist affected people. Depending on the damage extension, the gait of these people can be impaired, making devices, such as smart walkers, useful for rehabilitation. The goal of this work is to analyze changes in muscle patterns on the paretic limb during free and walker-assisted gaits in stroke individuals, through accelerometry and surface electromyography (sEMG). Methods The analyzed muscles were vastus medialis, biceps femoris, tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius medialis. The volunteers walked three times on a straight path in free gait and, further, three times again, but now using the smart walker, to help them with the movements. Then, the data from gait pattern and muscle signals collected by sEMG and accelerometers were analyzed and statistical analyses were applied. Results The accelerometry allowed gait phase identification (stance and swing), and sEMG provided information about muscle pattern variations, which were detected in vastus medialis (onset and offset; p = 0.022) and biceps femoris (offset; p = 0.025). Additionally, comparisons between free and walker-assisted gaits showed significant reduction in speed (from 0.45 to 0.30 m/s; p = 0.021) and longer stance phase (from 54.75 to 60.34%; p = 0.008). Conclusions Variations in muscle patterns were detected in vastus medialis and biceps femoris during the experiments, besides user speed reduction and longer stance phase when the walker-assisted gait is compared with the free gait.</p></div>