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The immediate effects of fitting and tuning solid ankle–foot orthoses in early stroke rehabilitation

Carse, Bruce and Bowers, Roy and Meadows, Barry C. and Rowe, Philip (2015) The immediate effects of fitting and tuning solid ankle–foot orthoses in early stroke rehabilitation. Prosthetics and Orthotics International, 39 (6). pp. 454-462. ISSN 0309-3646

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Abstract

Background: Ankle-foot orthoses are known to have a generally positive effect on gait in stroke, however the specifc type of AFO and the time point at which it is provided are highly variable in the currently available literature. Objective: The objective was to determine the immediate spatiotemporal and kinematic effect of custom-made solid ankle–foot orthoses in early stroke rehabilitation, compared to shod walking. Methods: Five male and three female participants were recruited to the study (n = 8), with a mean age of 57 (16) years who were 3.5 (3) weeks post-stroke. Each received a custom-made solid ankle–foot orthosis to a predefined set of design criteria and tuned using heel wedges to control the shank inclination angle during shod walking. Repeated spatiotemporal and three-dimensional gait measures were taken pre- and immediately post-intervention. Study design: A pre–post-test experimental study. Results: With the solid ankle–foot orthosis, walking velocity increased from 0.22 (0.2) to 0.36 (0.3) m/s (p < 0.05), overall average step length increased from 0.28 (0.1) to 0.37 (0.1) m (p < 0.05), cadence increased from 45 (19) to 56 (19) steps/min (p < 0.05) and step length symmetry ratio increased from 0.65 (0.2) to 0.74 (0.2) (not significant). No clear changes were observed in the joint kinematics of the hip and knee. Conclusion: In our small group of early stroke patients who were fitted with a solid ankle–foot orthosis, immediate significant improvements occurred in walking speed, step length and cadence, when compared to walking with shoes only. Clinical relevance This study provides evidence about the immediate effects of custom solid ankle–foot orthoses on gait of early stroke survivors. Ankle–foot orthosis design specifications are fully described for replication. This study suggests that observing global segment orientation may be more useful than joint angles when fitting and tuning ankle–foot orthoses for optimal ankle–foot orthosis/footwear alignment