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This technique can improve stroke patients’ walking speed

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Those who are undergoing rehabilitation after a stroke can increase their walking speed through a technique of magnetic stimulation of the brain, a recent study suggests.

Noninvasive repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) – especially high-frequency stimulation on the same side of the brain where the stroke occurred – leads to improved walking speed, according to the review and meta-analysis by Dr Chengqi He.

However, the evidence doesn’t show improvement in balance and other key outcomes in stroke patients undergoing rTMS.

Chengqi performed a systematic review of the research literature to identify studies of the effects of rTMS on walking and balance function after stroke. In this technique, patients undergo repeated sessions of magnetic stimulation of the brain, with the goal of stimulating a targeted area of the brain.

The review identified nine studies of rTMS, five of which were randomised controlled trials. Seven studies used high-frequency rTMS and two used low-frequency rTMS.

Analysis of pooled data from these studies showed significant improvement in walking speed in patients who received rTMS.

Each year, an estimated 700,000 patients experience a stroke, and about 30 percent of these cannot walk independently at six months after their stroke.

“Future studies with larger sample sizes and an adequate follow-up period are required to further investigate the effects of rTMS on lower limb function and its relationship with changes in cortical excitability with the help of functional neuroimaging techniques,” Chengqi said.The study appears in American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

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