The study in brief
Foot drop can be treated using two types of device. Functional electrical stimulation (FES) uses small electrical charges to the muscles of the lower leg to force the foot into a more natural position for walking. An ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) is a device made of plastic or carbon fibre that holds the foot and ankle in a correct position to prevent the foot from dropping down during walking.
There’s been very little research comparing the two devices, so this study aimed to compare the effectiveness and relative costs of AFO and FES in people with MS.
Seventy nine people were recruited from seven centres in Scotland and randomly assigned to be fitted with an AFO or an FES. The impact of the device was measured at the start, 3, 6 and 12 months.
The relatively small number of participants and the high drop out rate (38%) made it difficult to draw firm conclusions from the study. Both groups walked faster when wearing their devices at 12 months, with neither of the devices showing a clear advantage over the other. There was no evidence that either device had a therapeutic effect, that is, improved unassisted walking performance. Overall, results suggested that AFO devices were less acceptable to people with MS; the researchers conclude that both the physical and psychological impact of a device needs to be taken into account as both these contribute to someone’s willingness to keep using a device.[…]