Effect of Ankle Orientation on Heel Loading and Knee Stability for Post-stroke Individuals Wearing Ankle-foot Orthoses
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Prosthetics and Orthotics International
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Background: Those who experience lower extremity weakness or paralysis following a stroke often exhibit gait deviations caused by the inability to completely lift their foot during swing. An ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) is commonly prescribed for individuals post stroke with this mobility impairment.
Study design: Randomized controlled trial.
Objectives: To determine whether significant differences could be observed in post-stroke individuals ambulating with an experimental AFO set at three different ankle orientations.
Methods: Gait analysis was conducted for eight post-stroke individuals ambulating with an experimental AFO set in three different randomly selected ankle orientations: 5° dorsiflexion, 5° plantarflexion, and neutral alignment. Temporospatial (velocity, cadence, stride length and step length), kinematic (knee angle), kinetic (external knee moment), and plantar force (heel) data were assessed. Within-subject statistical analysis was conducted using the repeated measures ANOVA to determine whether observed differences between the three orientations were significant.
Results: Post-stroke individuals generally exhibited less knee flexion during loading response when their AFO was aligned at 5° plantarflexion. Six of the eight subjects demonstrated increased knee flexion moment during loading response with the plantarflexed versus dorsiflexed alignment. The plantarflexed ankle orientation also resulted in greater peak heel contact force during loading response.
Conclusions: Post stroke individuals may demonstrate less knee flexion during loading response and increased knee flexion moment (with respect to a dorsiflexed orientation) when their AFO is aligned in 5° plantarflexion. The fixed plantarflexed ankle orientation consistently resulted in greater peak heel contact force during loading response.
Plantarflexed AFOs are contraindicated for individuals with prior history of pressure sores on their heels. Post stroke individuals placed in 5° dorsiflexion may demonstrate increased knee flexion, enhanced shock absorption, decreased knee flexion moment, and decreased heel pressure (with respect to a plantarflexed orientation) during loading response.