Introduction: Hinged ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) have been shown to improve gait and functional mobility in both adult and pediatric populations with neurological disorders. Hinged AFOs provided to clients can either be prefabricated or custom-made. To date, there have been no studies comparing a custom-made articulated AFO (C-AFO) with a prefabricated articulated AFO (P-AFO) and the effects that they have on gait and functional mobility in individuals with hemiplegia after a stroke.
Materials and Methods: The purpose of this study was to determine if there were any differences in the gait and functional mobility parameters of patients with hemiplegia when wearing the C-AFO or the P-AFO and also to determine if there was a difference in the braced versus not-braced conditions. Fourteen participants with hemiplegia completed tests that assessed spatiotemporal gait parameters using the GAITRite walkway. In addition, participants completed tests to assess weight-bearing symmetry during sit-to-stand (using the Balance Master), stepping capabilities using the maximal step length (MSL) test, and functional mobility using the timed up and go test (TUG). Data were analyzed using a repeated measures analysis of variance with Bonferroni adjustments for multiple comparisons.
Results: There were no significant differences (P > 0.05) between the two braced conditions for the gait parameters, the TUG, the sit-to-stand symmetry, and the MSL. There were significant differences between the braced (C-AFO or P-AFO) and the shoes-only conditions for the gait parameters (gait speed, stride length, step length, and gait symmetry of the uninvolved leg) and for the functional mobility assessments (TUG and MSL-involved leg).
Conclusions: This preliminary study has shown that there was no significant difference in any of the gait or functional mobility parameters when wearing the C-AFO or the P-AFO, provided that the P-AFO provides optimal support and fits the individual’s anatomical dimensions well. Significant differences in both gait and functional mobility measures were observed between the shoes-only and braced conditions. The results of this study also demonstrated that wearing a hinged AFO does contribute to a better gait and functional mobility in people who have had a stroke.