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Surface electrical stimulation for foot drop: Control aspects and walking performance

Author(s): Stein Richard B. | Rolf Robert | Everaert Dirk G. | Bobet Jacques | Chong Suling

Journal: Journal of Automatic Control
ISSN 1450-9903

Volume: 18;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 47;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: electrical stimulation | multiple sclerosis | stroke | walking

Use of electrical stimulation to correct foot drop in hemiplegia was proposed over 40 years ago. Recently, improved control strategies have been developed and implemented in commercially available devices. In this article we review the control methods that have been used and present some results from a multi-center clinical trial. A foot-drop stimulator improves the gait pattern and results in an immediate increase in walking speed. In this sense it acts like an ankle-foot orthosis and this immediate increase will be referred to as an orthotic effect. Prolonged use of a foot drop stimulator over a period of months results in further, large increases in walking speed both with the stimulator on and off. Evidence indicates that a part of this increase results from daily use that strengthens residual cortico-spinal connections. Therefore the improvement over time will be referred to as a therapeutic effect. We found that people with non-progressive and progressive conditions of the central nervous system have an orthotic benefit, as well as a therapeutic up to 3 months of use. In generally non-progressive conditions such as stroke, further therapeutic increases are seen up to at least 11 months of use. In disorders such as multiple sclerosis, the progression of the disease eventually overcomes the early therapeutic effects. In conclusion, many individuals can benefit from commercially available foot-drop stimulators with improved control strategies and cosmetic design.
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