Background: Drop foot is a distal deficiency common in patients with central nervous system diseases that makes clearance difficult during swing phase, contributes to inefficient gait compensations, contributes to increase incidence of falls and energy expenditure. Aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a single application of functional electrical stimulation compared with ankle-foot orthoses in patients with drop foot.
Methods: Patients enrolled were unable to walk and to perform test without ankle-foot orthoses. They were evaluated by 10-meters walk test, obstacles test, up-and-down stair test, six-minute walk test and gait analysis with inertial sensors. All tests were performed with ankle-foot orthoses and with no ankle-foot orthoses and application of single functional electrical stimulation.
Results: Thirteen patients (8 males and 5 females) were recruited for this study out of 41 potential subjects. Data collected were processed by Student’s t test and by Wilcoxon test for paired observations and by Student’s t test and Mann-Whitney test for independent samples. P ≤ 0.05 were considered significant. For each test suitable effect sizes (Cohen’s d, and Pearson’s r) were calculated. Analysis of results with ankle-foot orthoses and with no anklefoot orthoses and application of single functional electrical stimulation showed no statistically significant difference in all test.
Conclusions: The use of single functional electrical stimulation showed same effects of ankle-foot orthoses on walking capacity and motor performance in chronic neurological diseases. More studies would be required to assess the long term effectiveness of functional electrical stimulation and to evaluate if its application in acute-phase may be used in association with traditional treatment.