Purpose: To determine the feasibility of an early treadmill training program for infants with myelomeningocele (MMC) and to measure changes in overt infant motor development and control, including mechanisms underlying the overt changes. Methods: Ten infants with MMC were initially enrolled: 8 infants completed 12 consecutive months of training, and 2 completed 6 months of training. Training consisted primarily of home-based, parent-administered treadmill stepping practice 5 days per week, 10 minutes per day starting within 6 months postbirth. We measured motor milestones, treadmill steps, spinal-level reflexes, and body composition. Results: Infants showed earlier acquisition of gross motor skills than previously reported. The number of alternating steps performed increased, indicating more complex neuromotor control and strength. Integrity of monosynaptic pathways and body composition were improved after controlling for chronological age. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the feasibility of using early, home-based treadmill training for infants with MMC starting within 6 months postbirth.
- early intervention
- treadmill stepping practice