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New FES device could improve gait in patients with foot drop

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The WalkAide, a novel system that uses single channel functional electric stimulation to improve gait, could be beneficial for patients with foot drop, according to data presented here at the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists Annual Meeting.

The device, a battery-operated neuroprosthesis, works by placing an electrode over the superficial peroneal nerve and the anterior tibialis. It calculates dorsiflexion of the ankle at an optimal time during gait cycle to improve limb clearance during swing phase.

Sarah Rotondo, MSPT, rehabilitation specialist at Innovative Neurotronics, said the device holds an inclinometer, which acts as a tilt sensor to measure tibial angle, and an accelerometer that measures changes in speed movement.

Sarah Rotondo

 

Researchers conducted a 2 week home trial period of 19 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS)-related foot drop with a mean age of 51 years and who had MS for an average period of 9 years.

“The goal was to examine gait speed, perceived walking ability and quality of life using functional electric stimulation (FES) as an alternative care option to AFOs,” Rotondo said.

Measures were taken before use of FES and with FES after 2 weeks of full-time wear.

Findings showed improvement in the timed 25-foot walk test, 12 item MS walking scale and MS impact scale. Patients reported lessened impact of MS on their walking ability and quality of life using FES.

Researchers also conducted a study of patients with spastic cerebral palsy aged 5 to 17 years who had unilateral foot drop. The goal in this case was to assess strength, muscle and various joint kinematics. 

“The results, which were collected through the [National Institutes of Health], were similar among the groups,” Rotondo said. “[A total of] 95% of wearers in the first group chose to continue with use of the WalkAide over their current treatment.”

Lastly, researchers conducted a study of patients aged 8 to 19 years to test short-term effects of FES on muscle size and ankle control. Ultrasound, muscle thickness, gait spatio-temporal parameter and ankle kinematic measures were taken barefoot and utilizing the WalkAide. Participants were evaluated at study onset and after a 3-month baseline, 1-month device accommodation, 3-month intervention and 3-month follow-up.

Results showed an increase in cross sectional area and muscle thickness in the intervention period compared to the 3-month baseline and follow-up.

The WalkAide also helped improve dorsiflexion, plantarflexion and showed an increase in positive effects over time compared to standard braces, the data showed. Compared to baseline, ankle motion improved with and without the device at follow-up. Ankle motion was preserved with the device at follow-up, but not without it.

Researchers believe “the WalkAide provides consistent and prolonged foot drop correction,” Rotondo said. “It improved ankle motion, gait speed, function endurance and quality,” she noted, “especially in initial and the more intense phases.” – by Shawn M. Carter

Reference:

Rotndo S. The G-Walk: Mobile Gait Analysis Technology and Walk Aide. Presented at: New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists Annual Meeting; Nov. 4-6, 2015; Atlantic City, N.J.

Disclosure: Rotondo reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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