Uzo Igwegbe, PT, MPT, fitting a stroke survivor with the thigh component of the Bioness L300 Go, targeted at stimulating the L hamstrings to minimize L knee hyperextension in stance during ambulation.
By Uzo Igwegbe, PT, MPT
Foot drop, a gait abnormality, is an insufficient ability to dorsiflex or clear the foot/feet during the swing phase of gait, causing an increased risk for stumbling, falls, or injury. In a normal gait cycle, initial foot contact occurs with the heel; however, an individual with foot drop may drag the foot and/or make initial contact with the forefoot or foot flat. To compensate they may excessively flex the hip and knee, or circumduct the affected limb, or increase time spent in swing phase of the affected extremity.
The cause of drop foot is due to damage to the common fibular (peroneal) nerve (inclusive of the sciatic nerve), weakness or paralysis of the tibialis anterior, extensor halluces longus and extensor digitorum longus. Foot drop is associated with cerebrovascular accident/stroke, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, spinal stenosis, disc herniation, poliomyelitis, diabetes mellitus, Charcot-Marie-Foot Disease, muscular dystrophy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or direct injury to the peroneal nerve.
Ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) and Functional Electric Stimulation (FES) technologies are used in the management and treatment of drop foot in physical therapy. These two approaches strive to facilitate a natural gait with increased speed, improved balance, confidence, safety, and independence with ambulation and functional mobility.
Product ResourcesThe following companies provide products to treat ankle injuries, foot drop and other aspects of stroke and neurological rehabilitation:
Ankle foot orthotics, the most common approach used, support neutral foot position to facilitate clearance during swing and provide ankle stability during loading response.1 AFOs are either off the shelf (for short-term use) or custom made from a cast (for complex cases or long-term use). These L-shaped braces are worn in footwear and, in most cases, a larger shoe size of one half to a full shoe size may be required due to the bulk of the orthosis. To obtain an AFO, a correct foot drop diagnosis by the therapist/physician and a physician’s AFO prescription is needed to proceed with a comprehensive assessment, with recommendations of treatment options from a licensed orthotist. A cast impression of the foot and leg is done for custom AFO. Follow-up appointments are done after reception of the AFO for re-evaluation of fit and function. The AFOs prescribed for drop foot include:
1) Posterior Leaf Spring AFO:This prefabricated, semi-rigid, polypropylene AFO supports individuals with mild foot drop and knee instability. It provides dorsiflexion during swing and controls plantarflexion at heel strike. Resistance to plantarflexion can be controlled by modifying the ankle and footplate trim lines. This AFO is the initial “go-to” brace for physical therapists because they are readily available, lightweight, inexpensive, and can provide initial ankle stability early in rehabilitation; however, there are newer, lighter, more comfortable, user-friendly and functional models available. Sources for these types of AFOs include Orthotic & Prosthetic Lab Inc, Webster Groves, Mo, which makes the Dynamic ROM AFO, and Orange County, Calif-headquartered, Össur Americas, which offers a prefabricated, polypropylene AFO Leaf Spring.
2) Solid AFO: This custom-fabricated plastic AFO prevents plantarflexion and prevents/limits dorsiflexion. It supports the ankle-foot complex in the coronal and sagittal planes in individuals with complete or nearly complete loss of dorsiflexion and mild to moderate knee hyperextension. Although bulky, it provides significant ankle support. It is contraindicated in individuals with fluctuating edema due to its rigid structure. Its bulk, difficulty obtaining properly fitted footwear, and general discomfort due to heat generated from continuous use can be barriers to utilization. One source for these devices is Kiser’s Orthotic and Prosthetic Services Inc, Keene, NH, which manufactures its solid ankle AFO to help combat spasticity, help the toe to clear, and prevent the Achilles tendon from tightening.
3) Free Motion Articulating AFO: The ankle joint here is activated, so the individual must have active ankle motion. It is commonly prescribed for individuals with some dorsiflexion, but who still need frontal plane stability. It is not recommended for patients with significant quadriceps weakness. Among the products available in this category is the Exos Free Motion Ankle from DJO Global Inc, Vista, Calif; a prefabricated AFO made to be moldable, adjustable, and can be custom fit. Becker Orthopedic, Troy, Mich, also offers a plastic AFO with articulating ankle, which can be used with a variety of the company’s thermoplastic ankle joints and posterior stops.
4) Short Leg AFO with Fixed Hinge: A good option for people who have flatfoot and drop foot, this AFO holds the foot at 90 degrees to the lower leg and controls unwanted inward rotation of the foot, which is common in stroke and Charcot-Marie Tooth patients. It is relatively light and easily fits footwear. A disadvantage of this brace, and the solid AFO, is its failure to provide a natural gait. Among the sources that offer this type of orthoses is New Linox, Ill-headquartered Rinella Orthotics & Prosthetics Inc.
5) Dorsiflexion Assist AFO: This has a spring-like hinge which assists the ankle with dorsiflexion as the foot comes off the ground for those with mild to moderate drop foot, and a flat or unstable foot as it offers a more natural gait pattern. The short lower leg length of this brace and the Short Leg AFO fails to provide adequate support in people over 6 feet or 225 pounds.
6) Plantarflexion Stop AFO: This brace prevents plantarflexion and has a hinge that facilitates normal dorsiflexion. Due to its cumbersome size, it is not utilized often but can be effective in people with more severe or spastic drop foot. Orthotic & Prosthetic Lab Inc provides plantarflexion stop AFOs that are designed to prevent unwanted plantarflexion while permitting free dorsiflexion. These AFOs are also available from Yakima, Wash-headquartered Yakima Orthotics & Prosthetics, and are designed to provide medial/lateral stability and plantarflexion/dorsiflexion control.
7) Energy Return AFO: This prefabricated, lightweight AFO is made of carbon graphite material. It provides assistance in dorsiflexion and energy return at push-off to propel the individual forward with plantarflexors. It provides stability only in the sagittal plane; however, a foot orthotic can be placed on the flat foot for frontal plane stability. In stroke and spina bifida patients, carbon-fiber AFOs increased walking speed and decreased energy cost when compared to unbraced walking.2 Research suggests that Energy Return AFOs facilitate plantar flexor muscle regeneration and prevents atrophy.3,4
Therapists have a number of choices in this category, including the ToeOff carbon composite dynamic response floor reaction AFO from Allard USA Inc, Rockaway, NJ; designed to keep the foot up during swing phase as well as provide soft heel strike and stability in stance. In addition to providing good toe-off to the wearer, the company recommends this AFO for foot drop in combination with no spasticity to moderate spasticity. The Ypsilon, also from Allard, is made to provide toe-off assistance to stable ankles while also allowing natural ankle movement, while the company’s BlueROCKER provides more rigid orthopedic control and was developed for bilateral foot drop. It can be used for foot drop in combination with no spasticity to severe spasticity, as well as partial foot amputations, impaired balance, and weakness or impairment in multiple leg muscle groups. The Peromax carbon fiber AFO and Trulife Matrix Max carbon fiber AFO are two other options available to the PT market in this category.
Users with big toe plantar ulcerations who are unable to cope with the plastic AFO due to skin breakdown from continuous pushing off the foot plate can have the addition of a custom foot orthotic, which can help offload those areas. Items like a heel lift can be placed under the foot plate to control for knee hyperextension. Despite their advantages, this AFO is not ideal for individuals with large calves or very tall individuals, as their long stride repeatedly overextend and weaken the AFO, or individuals with spastic drop foot or tight Achilles tendon, as the overactivity of the muscle pushes down on the foot plate, excessively hyperextending the knee.
Therapist is shown fitting a stroke survivor with the lower leg cuff of the Bioness L300 Go to stimulate the tibialis anterior muscle to improve L foot clearance during ambulation.
Performing the initial stimulation testing to determine whether the desired muscle activation is elicited prior to ambulation.
Functional Electrical Stimulation Management
The L300 Foot Drop System and WalkAide are approved medical devices for foot drop by the US Food and Drug Administration and are used in rehabilitation hospitals. The Bioness Legacy L300, L300 Go, and WalkAide consist of a lower leg cuff which holds electrode(s), providing low-level electrical stimulation to an intact peroneal nerve. The L300 Go and WalkAide use advance tilt sensor technology to monitor movement in all three kinematic planes, providing stimulation to lift the foot at the appropriate time. This makes foot clearance at various cadence and terrains feasible. They do not require a foot sensor like the Legacy L300, decreasing setup time and allowing users to ambulate with or without footwear. They can be used if knee instability and foot drop are present, promoting clinical application as majority of individuals present with both. Patients work alongside a clinician to obtain training for home use or utilize these technologies in the clinical setting.
The options available in the treatment and management of foot drop are numerous. The path to obtaining the right product involves a joint partnership between the patient, physical therapist, physician, and orthotist. The clinician must draw from the patient’s needs, abilities, facets of gait needing improvement, and special conditions specific to the patient to recommend the optimal product. In the choice between an AFO and FES device, the ultimate goal is to provide a product that will yield compliance, a normalized gait, and contribute to independent function. PTP
Uzo Igwegbe, PT, MPT, is outpatient physical therapist, senior, at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Cypress, located in Houston, Texas. She earned her master’s degree in physical therapy at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, in February 2010. She joined HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in January 2012, starting at the City View location in Fort Worth, Texas, working in both inpatient and outpatient settings, developing treatment plans for pulmonary, brain injury and orthopedics patients. Igwegbe joined the HealthSouth Cypress team in September 2013, where she primarily worked with outpatients with a wide range of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as post-orthopedic surgery patients. For more information, contact PTPEditor@medqor.com.
Farley J. Controlling drop foot: Beyond standard AFOs. Lower Extremity Review. 2009.
Danielsson A, Sunnerhagen K. Energy expenditure in stroke subjects looking with a carbon composite ankle foot orthosis. J Rehabil Med. 2004;36(4):165-168.
Wolf SI, Alimusaj M, Rettig O, Doderlein L. Dynamic assist by carbon fiber spring AFOs for patients with myelomeningocele. Gait Posture. 2008;28(1):175-177.
Meier RH, Ruthsatz DC, Cipriani D. Impact of AFO (ankle foot orthosis) design on calf circumference. Lower Extremity Review. 2014;6(10):29-35.
WalkAide: Helping You Get a Leg Up on Foot Drop
WalkAide is a class II, FDA cleared medical device, designed to improve walking ability in people experiencing foot drop caused by upper motor neuron injuries or conditions such as:
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Foot Drop or Dropped Foot is a condition caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in lifting the front part of the foot, which causes a person to drag the toe of the shoe on the ground or slap the foot on the floor.
Foot drop (also known as drop foot) may result from damage to the central nervous system such as stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. The WalkAide is designed to assist with the ability to lift the foot for those individuals who have suffered an injury to their central nervous system. The WalkAide is not designed to work with people who have damage to the lower motor neurons/peripheral nerves.
WalkAide vs. AFO
Traditionally, foot drop is treated with bracing using an ankle foot orthosis (AFO). The passive treatement offered by AFOs do not promote active use of neuromuscular systems and also limits ankle range of motion. In addition, AFOs can be uncomfortable, bulky, and, if poorly fitted, produce areas of pressure and tissue breakdown. The WalkAide may replace the traditional AFO to re-engage a person’s existing nerve pathways and muscles. Using the WalkAide, in most cases, frees the patient from AFO restrictions.
The recruitment of existing muscles results in reduction of atrophy and walking fatigue – a common side effect of foot bracing. WalkAide users have the freedom to walk with or without footwear, up and down the stairs, and even sidestep.
Comparison of Benefits of Functional Electrical
Stimulation (FES) and Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) for Foot Drop
AFO = ankle foot orthosis • FES = functional electrical stimulation • ROM = range of motion
Advanced Technology; Easy to Use
Invented by a team of researchers at the University of Alberta, WalkAide uses functional electrical stimulation (FES) to restore typical nerve-to-muscle signals in the leg and foot, effectively lifting the foot at the appropriate time. The resulting movement is a smoother, more natural and safer stepping motion. It may allow faster walking for longer distances with less fatigue. In fact, many people who try WalkAide experience immediate and substantial improvement in their walking ability, which increases their mobility, functionality, and overall independence.
A sophisticated medical device, WalkAide uses advanced tilt sensor technology to analyze the movement of your leg. This tilt sensor adjust the timing of stimulation for every step. The system sends electrical signals or stimulation to the peroneal nerve, which controls movement in your ankle and foot. These gentle electrical impulses activate the muscles to raise your foot at the appropriate time during the step cycle.
Although highly-advanced, WalkAide is surprisingly small and easy to use. It consists of a AA battery-operated, single-channel electrical stimulator, two electrodes, and electrode leads. WalkAide is applied directly to the leg — not implanted underneath the skin — which means no surgery is involved. A cuff holds the system comfortably in place, and it can be worn discreetly under most clothing. With the WalkAide’s patented Tilt Sensor technology, most users do not require additional external wiring or remote heel sensors.
WalkAide Provides the Advantages not Found in Typical Foot Drop Treamtents :
Easy one-handed operation and application
Small, self-contained unit
Does not require orthopedic or special shoes
May be worn barefoot or with slippers
Minimal contact means minimal discomfort with reduced perspiration
May improve circulation, reduce atrophy, improve voluntary control and increase joint range of motion
Customized For Individual Walking Pattern
WalkAide is not a one size fits all device. Rather, a specially trained medical professional customizes and fits the WalkAide. Using WalkAnalyst, a multifaceted computer software program, the clinician can tailor WalkAide to an individual’s walking pattern for optimal effectiveness.
Exercise Mode for Home Use
In addition fo walking assistance, the WalkAide system includes a pre-programmable exercise mode that allows a user to exercise his/her muscles while resting for a set period of time as prescribed.
Objectives: This study aims to investigate the effect of ankle foot orthosis (AFO) on temporospatial parameters, ankle kinematics, and functional ambulation level in patients with stroke.
Patients and methods: Records of 286 adult patients with stroke assessed in the gait and motion analysis laboratory between April 2005 and January 2013 were reviewed. The data of 28 patients (16 males, 12 females; mean age 43.2±15.9 years; range 20 to 72 years) who were analyzed with and without AFO during the same session were selected for the study. Temporospatial parameters (walking speed, cadence, opposite foot contact, double support time, single support time, step time, and step length) and ankle kinematics (ankle dorsiflexion at initial contact and midswing) were measured using the Vicon 512 motion analysis system. The video and medical records of patients were examined to determine their ambulation level according to Functional Ambulation Category.
Results: Walking speed, cadence, and ankle dorsiflexion at initial contact and midswing were significantly increased while walking with AFO compared to walking barefoot (p<0.05). There were significant reduction in step time and significant increase in step length and opposite foot contact with AFO on the affected side (p<0.05). Single support time reduced significantly with AFO on the unaffected side (p<0.05). Functional Ambulation Category score improved significantly with use of AFO (p<0.05).
Conclusion: The use of AFO has positive effects on gait parameters and functional ambulation in patients with stroke.
Turbomed Orthotics offers the FS3000 external foot drop brace. The FS3000 brace is a custom-built modular AFO (ankle foot orthosis) made from highly durable thermoplastic. The device attaches to the outside of a patient’s footwear and is easily interchangeable between shoes. The unique design of the FS3000 brace acts as an exoskeleton to the impaired limb, helping to improve the patient’s function without discomfort or rubbing. The FS3000 brace does not prevent ankle plantar flexion or limit dorsiflexion, making it easier for patients to walk and run on slopes, stairs, and uneven surfaces.
Objective: To compare the effects on walking of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) and Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO) for foot-drop of central neurological origin, assessed in terms of unassisted walking behaviours compared with assisted walking following a period of use (combined-orthotic effects).
Data Sources: MEDLINE, AMED, CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Scopus, REHABDATA, PEDro, NIHR Centre for Reviews and Dissemination and clinicaltrials.gov. plus reference list, journal, author and citation searches.
Study Selection: English language comparative Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs).
Data Synthesis: Seven RCTs were eligible for inclusion. Two of these reported different results from the same trial and another two reported results from different follow up periods so were combined; resulting in five synthesised trials with 815 stroke participants. Meta-analyses of data from the final assessment in each study and three overlapping time-points showed comparable improvements in walking speed over ten metres (p=0.04-0.95), functional exercise capacity (p=0.10-0.31), timed up-and-go (p=0.812 and p=0.539) and perceived mobility (p=0.80) for both interventions.
Conclusion: Data suggest that, in contrast to assumptions that predict FES superiority, AFOs have equally positive combined-orthotic effects as FES on key walking measures for foot-drop caused by stroke. However, further long-term, high-quality RCTs are required. These should focus on measuring the mechanisms-of-action; whether there is translation of improvements in impairment to function, plus detailed reporting of the devices used across diagnoses. Only then can robust clinical recommendations be made.
For 2016, Acor has updated its custom AFO Gauntlets, which are handmade in the company’s Cleveland, OH, facility. Also known as a “Leather Lacer,” the company’s most popular AFO (ankle foot orthosis) gauntlet is the G9210. This particular design comes with a choice of 18 colors of leather, polypropylene reinforcement, and a lining of leather or NeoSponge, a synthetic rubber cushioning material covered with silver impregnated X-Static. The footbed area is now seamless, and Mini-Check antiskid soling is an option. The company has reduced turnaround time to five business days in-house.
1) Within-subject comparison. Impact factor: 2.78
2) Population: community dwelling post stroke at least 6 months prior to study
3) Mode: Functional Electrical Stimulation
4) Parameters: amplitude: pulse width: 1-150 nanosec., frequency/pulse rate: 30 Hz, phase duration: 230 microseconds
5) Protocol: electrodes placed over the common peroneal nerve and anterior tibialis. Treadmill was set at 20-30 km/hr. depending on patient ability
6) Outcome: Use of FES proved to improve obstacle clearance ability in those who have had a stroke, specifically if there is decreased muscular strength involved in the anterior tibialis area. The use of the FES was superior, but not significantly superior, to the use of an AFO.
Based on this article, I would use functional electrical stimulation to aide in decreasing foot drop related fall risk due to decreased obstacle clearance ability. I would not, however, base my decision between FES and an orthotic strictly on this study because the difference in outcome was not significant enough to influence my opinion. I would focus more on specific patient situation and preference when selecting method of control for foot clearance of object.
Patient suffered CVA with resultant right sided hemiparesis. Here, he dons a custom molded ankle foot orthosis and is educated about proper donning/doffing, skin care, and wearing schedule. This particular brace is used to enhance clearance of right lower extremity during ambulation as well as provide joint alignment and stability.
In the rehabilitation world, there are a number of approaches to manage the physical sequelae that occur post-stroke. One of those sequelae is foot drop, which is most common among the impairments characteristic of post-stroke patients, and experienced by an estimated 20% of all stroke survivors.1 Since foot drop affects ability to safely ambulate throughout the home and community, retraining the impaired muscles that contribute to foot drop becomes a priority. Lower-extremity bracing is one measure that can be used to manage foot drop. Correctly timing the decision to fit a patient with a brace or other orthosis has been heavily discussed in the literature, and understanding the considerations that can help pinpoint that optimum time are explored in this article.
Multidisciplinary Expertise is Essential
At the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, patients affected by stroke are seen for initial bracing evaluations during the inpatient and outpatient phases of recovery. They are also reassessed as needed throughout the continuum of care. For some patients, a brace or orthosis for daily use may be prescribed. In such cases, a team of rehabilitation professionals is called on to participate in the decision-making process.
The team physician leads the decision-making process and is ultimately responsible for determining which orthotic best suits the patient’s needs. The physical therapist assists with the bracing decision-making process by contributing gait analysis expertise. An orthotist designs and fabricates an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) when prescribed, provides expertise in biomechanical gait principles, and integrates that expertise with orthotic-based materials. The patient/caregiver provides feedback for discussion among the other team members and ultimately makes the decision about bracing based on recommendations made by the team.
Other factors weighed during the decision-making process for bracing include limited insurance or financial restrictions put on custom bracing, limited access to an orthotist, and likelihood of compliance.
Making the decision about the optimal point in time to fit a patient with an orthosis is multifactorial. This decision can be dependent on discharge disposition with particular regard to whether the patient is discharging to home, and if safety is a primary concern secondary to a lack of ankle control. The level of impairment as well as weakness and instability should be taken into consideration, coupled with any prognostic indicators for a positive return in muscle control.
Many variables can account for how an AFO can improve walking endurance and functional ambulation long-term among patients affected by chronic stroke. For example, the AFO will create ankle joint stability and enhance foot clearance through swing phase of gait. This will alter gait mechanics and ultimately help to enhance the patient’s confidence in their own gait ability. An AFO preserves first ankle rocker with hemiplegic patients and provides a more efficient weight acceptance at initial contact to allow for enhanced double limb support and, thus, increased gait speed.2 Gait efficiency is also an important factor to consider when discussing energy expenditure and a patient’s ability to perform functional ambulation. Dynamic AFOs were shown to decrease energy cost of walking, as demonstrated from the Physiological Cost Index when compared to shoes only with chronic stroke patients.3
Comparing Braces and Orthoses
There are important pros and cons for each type of orthosis, with cost and weight the two most common factors. Also, there are drawbacks generally associated with the use of an orthosis that include compliance secondary to comfort, limited ankle motion, and a relatively fixed position (unless an articulating AFO is prescribed).
Part of the decision about bracing may come down to trade-offs between a customized AFO and an “off the shelf,” prefabricated brace. The advantages each confers are distinct. For example, a custom molded AFO offers the ability to create an optimal fit and provides maximum control of the limb. In contrast, while mass-produced prefabricated orthoses may sacrifice quality of fit and limb control, they can be used as an evaluative tool or a short-term fix during the rehabilitation process.
The conventional double upright AFO is another common bracing solution that may require review by the multidisciplinary team. This design is used when there is significant or fluctuating edema that may constrict the limb and present pressure-related issues with the fit of an AFO. An articulating (hinge) AFO is used to assist with continued dorsiflexion and allow for great ankle ROM. It is not appropriate if spasticity is present, and can be challenging for shoe wear because width is typically wider to accommodate joint of brace.
Carbon composite AFOs are a dynamic bracing option that allow for push-off during third (forefoot) ankle rocker of gait. These AFOs are made to keep the foot up during swing phase, and provide a soft heel strike and stability in stance. This type of brace is contraindicated for patients affected by significant edema, ulcers, and spasticity. Several types of carbon composite AFOs are offered by Allard USA, Rockaway, NJ, including the ToeOFF, ToeOFF Short, BlueROCKER, KiddieROCKER, KiddieGAIT, and Ypsilon. Each brace in this carbon fiber AFO product line is designed to offer specific benefits such as increased rigid orthotic control, size optimized to wearer’s stature, and to accommodate varying levels of spasticity.
Posterior Leaf Spring (PLS) is another common bracing option usually offered as a prefabricated product. The Superior C-90 from AliMed, Dedham, Mass, is an example of this type of brace, and built to provide a full range of plantar and dorsiflexion. The Superior C-90 also provides a thin trim line and allows for eccentric lowering of foot and dorsiflexion for tibial advancement over foot through mid-stance. One drawback to this design, however, is the lack of medial/lateral stability of ankle and poor knee control. It is also contraindicated for patients with spasticity and genu recurvatum or extensor thrust.
Functional Electrical Stimulation is an Option
Orthoses engineered to provide functional electrical stimulation (FES) to the wearer during use can be an alternative to traditional AFOs. The use of FES, particularly for lower extremity bracing, has been associated with increased gait velocity, decreased energy expenditure with gait, and improved gait symmetry. Two manufacturers that provide these devices include Reno, Nevada-based Innovative Neurotronics, which manufactures the WalkAide, and Valencia, Calif-headquartered Bioness, which manufactures the Bioness L300. Among the two products’ distinguishing structural characteristics, the WalkAide has a built-in tilt sensor while the L300 is designed with a heel switch sensor. Both products are considered FES devices, yet the mechanism of action used by each differs slightly.
At Kessler, the Bioness L300 is available for patients to trial. In my experience, and one of the advantages of using the L300, is the result in physiological changes such as increased muscle strength, improved volitional control, and increased joint range of motion. These changes indicate an increased therapeutic effect not associated with the use of traditional AFOs. Another advantage is highlighted in a study by Everaert et al that examined patient preferences for devices and revealed a statistical difference between patients who preferred to use the WalkAide versus an AFO.4 An additional benefit of using FES devices is a purported decrease in spasticity, which further improves the therapeutic effect.
There are some drawbacks associated with the use of an FES device, however, and the most common is cost. Third-party payors often decline coverage for FES devices, so the cost typically falls to the patient. The patient must also tolerate the stimulation so the motor nerve can be activated. Skin irritation is an undesirable side effect, and the wearer’s tolerance must be carefully monitored. Contraindications for these devices include demand-type pacemakers, any cancerous lesion, fractures, or dislocation. Cognitive impairment that could affect ability to use the device is another important consideration. Ultimately, the decision to use a brace as therapeutic treatment for foot drop is a collaboration with one goal: to improve a patient’s ability to safely ambulate and maximize functional independence. PTP
Farris Fakhoury, PT, DPT, has been a physical therapist in the Outpatient Neurologic Gym at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation for 4 years, and is also the physical therapy lead for the facility’s amputee program. Fakhoury is the physical therapy lead for Kessler’s Amputees Coming Together (ACT) support group as well as for the Bioness program for outpatient services. He earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from Villanova University and a doctor of physical therapy from the joint program of Rutgers University/University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey PT Program in Stratford, NJ. For more information, contactPTProductsEditor@allied360.com.
Rich Klager, PT, DPT, NCS,has been a physical therapist at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, NJ, for more than 8 years. His clinical practice experience expands over the Inpatient and Outpatient facilities in the neurologic population. He currently assists with the Outpatient orthotic clinic decision-making process with the Team Physician and Orthotist for patient bracing needs.
1. Bethoux F, Rogers HL, Nolan K, et al. Long term follow-up to a randomized controlled trial comparing peroneal nerve functional electrical stimulation to an ankle foot orthosis for patients with chronic stroke. Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2015;29(10):911-922.
2. Nolan KJ, Yarossi M. Preservation of the first rocker is related to increases in gait speed in individuals with hemiplegia and AFO. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2011;26(6):655-660.
3. Erel S, Uygur F, Engin Simsek I, Yakut Y. The effects of dynamic ankle-foot orthoses in chronic stroke patients at three-month follow-up: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2011;25(6):515-523.
4. Everaert DG, Stein RB, Abrams GM, et al. Effect of foot-drop stimulator and ankle-foot orthosis on walking performance after stroke: A multicenter randomized controlled trial.Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2013;27(7):579-591.
Lusardi MM, Jorge M, Nielsen CC. Orthotics and Prosthetics in Rehabilitation. St Louis: Saunders Elsevier, 2007.
After stroke some residual gait deficits can remain and are prevalent. Foot drop is one of the common impairment which affects around 20% of stroke survivors. This impairment is caused by a paresis (total or partial) of the muscles involved in ankle dorsiflexion. This muscle weakness makes the ground clearance problematic during the swing phase of gait. This default can be compensated by ankle foot orthosis (AFO) but also by functional electrical stimulation.
This is an ancient technique that has benefited from recent advances in technology: wireless link, implanted stimulation, replacement of the heel switch by an inclinometer (System Walkaid)… The SEF is effective in improving walking parameters including walk speed but despite these recent technological improvements, it does not show that it is a more effective device than ankle foot orthoses in a recent study . An inertial node combining an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer placed on one of the two legs, is used to estimate the continuous walking cycle . This can advantageously replace the switch in the heel to improve reliability to determine when to start or end the stimulation and also allow for example to start the stimulation at any time, including before the heel off the ground. Moreover, this inertial node should also estimate a number of walking parameters including the quality of ankle dorsiflexion and walking type (normal walk but also pass an obstacle, turn around or climbing stairs) and thus to propose an adaptive functional electrical stimulation in an intelligent way.
The purpose of the presentation is to provide an update on the latest clinical studies and develop perspectives brought by the use of inertial nodes coupled with a wireless stimulator to integrate decision algorithms.