Recent study results presented by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH, Bethesda, Md, indicate that a new orthopedic device improves mobility in children with foot drop due to cerebral palsy (CP). The study focused on the foot drop stimulator, the WalkAide, and suggested that the device successfully improves mobility by significantly increasing ankle control during walking.

The study was led by Laura Prosser, PT, PhD, of the NIH. Researchers report that they collected dimensional lower extremity data for 19 study participants with CP, aged 7 years to 20 years. A 10-camera computerized motion-capture system was also utilized to document movement. 

According to researchers, the participants’ gait patterns were documented as they walked with and without the WalkAide. Participants first chose their desired walking speed, and then researchers asked participants to walk at their fastest speed. The study’s results indicate that at both speeds using the WalkAide, dorsiflexion of the impaired ankle increased significantly during the swing phase. The study also indicates that participants exhibited continuous improvement over 4 months of treatment, compared to 1 month of treatment. 

Researchers add that when study participants were given a choice between the WalkAide and their previous treatment (which included ankle-foot-orthosis [AFO], or no device at all), a reported 95% indicated the WalkAide as their desired treatment option.

The WalkAide device applies low-level electrical currents directly to the peroneal nerve, encouraging a muscle contraction, which lifts the foot at the appropriate time during the gait cycle. An embedded accelerometer determines the appropriate timing for stimulation with every step. 

According to its developer, Innovative Neurotronics, Austin, Texas, the device can also be utilized to treat lower leg paralysis or weakness in the stroke, MS, traumatic brain injury, and incomplete spinal cord injury patient populations.

Source: Hanger Orthopedic Group Inc