Non-Invasive Device Improves Walking Ability in Children With Cerebral Palsy

A recent study conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that the WalkAide System improves mobility in children with foot drop due to cerebral palsy (CP). The study, “Short-term effects of the WalkAide functional electrical stimulator on gait in individuals with cerebral palsy,” was presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy Developmental Medicine, according to a press release.

The WalkAide, manufactured by Hanger Orthopedic Group, Inc., is a non-invasive device attached directly to the leg. It applies low level electrical currents to the peroneal nerve, which prompts a muscle contraction that lifts the foot at the appropriate time during the gait cycle. The device uses an embedded accelerometer, similar to the sensor technology used in the Wii gaming system, to determine the correct timing for stimulation with each step.

The study collected dimensional lower extremity motion data from 19 children with CP ranging in age from 7 years to 20 years. A 10-camera computerized motion-capture system was used to document each participant. Gait patterns were measured with and without the WalkAide at a speed determined by the participant, and then at a faster speed. Dorsiflexion of the impaired ankle increased significantly when the WalkAide was used at both speeds.

Additionally, after 4 months of use, the participants’ mobility improved compared with their mobility after 1 month, suggesting that response to the electrical stimulation improves over time.

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