The relationship between gait symmetry and metabolic demand in individuals with unilateral transfemoral amputation: A preliminary study

Caitlin E. Mahon, Benjamin J. Darter, Christopher L. Dearth, Brad D. Hendershot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: Temporal-spatial symmetry allows for optimal metabolic economy in unimpaired human gait. The gait of individuals with unilateral transfemoral amputation is characterized by temporal-spatial asymmetries and greater metabolic energy expenditure. The objective of this study was to determine whether temporal-spatial asymmetries account for greater metabolic energy expenditure in individuals with unilateral transfemoral amputation. Materials and Methods: The relationship between temporal-spatial gait asymmetry and metabolic economy (metabolic power normalized by walking speed) was retrospectively examined in eighteen individuals with transfemoral amputation walking at a self-selected velocity overground. Pearson's product-moment correlations were used to assess the relationship between: (1) step time symmetry and metabolic economy and (2) step length symmetry and metabolic economy. The retrospective analysis of this data was approved by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Institutional Review Board and all individuals provided written consent. Additional insights on this relationship are presented through a case series describing the temporal-spatial and metabolic responses of two individuals with transfemoral amputation who completed a split-belt treadmill walking test. Results: For the cohort of individuals, there was no significant relationship between metabolic economy and either step time asymmetry or step length asymmetry. However, the case series showed a positive relationship between step length asymmetry and metabolic power as participants adapted to split-belt treadmill walking. Conclusion: There is mixed evidence for the relationship between temporal-spatial asymmetries and metabolic energy expenditure. This preliminary study may suggest optimal metabolic energy expenditure in individuals with transfemoral amputation occurs at an individualized level of symmetry and resultant deviations incur a metabolic penalty. The results of this study support the idea that addressing only temporal-spatial gait asymmetries in individuals with transfemoral amputation through rehabilitation may not improve metabolic economy. Nevertheless, future prospective research is necessary to confirm these results and implications for clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberusy424
Pages (from-to)E281-E287
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Amputation
  • Gait
  • Mechanics
  • Metabolics
  • Prosthetics
  • Rehabilitation


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