Researchers from a Scottish university have compared two commonly used treatments for foot drop - functional electrical stimulation (FES) and ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) - but found little difference between the effectiveness of the two treatments.
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) sends small electrical charges to the muscles of the lower leg to force the foot into a more natural position for walking. Ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) is a device made of plastic or carbon fibre that holds the foot and ankle in a correct position to prevent the foot from dropping down during walking.
To date there has been very little research comparing the two devices, so the study by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University is novel in that it compared the effectiveness of AFO and FES in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
In the research 79 people were recruited from seven centres in Scotland and randomly assigned to be fitted with an AFO or an FES device. The impact of the device was measured at the start, and after three, six and 12 months. The researchers found both groups walked faster when wearing their FES and AFO devices at 12 months, but neither of the devices showing a clear advantage over the other. There was no evidence that either device improved unassisted walking performance.
However the results did suggest that AFO devices were less acceptable to people with MS and the researchers concluded that both the physical and psychological impact of a device needs to be taken into account as both these contribute to someone’s willingness to keep using a device.
Source: MS-UK 27/08/16