(1) To study the effects of providing ankle-foot orthoses in subjects with (sub)acute stroke; and (2) to study whether the point in time at which an ankle-foot orthosis is provided post-stroke (early or delayed) influences these effects.Design:
Randomized controlled trial.Setting:
Unilateral hemiparetic stroke subjects with indication for use of an ankle-foot orthosis and maximal six weeks post-stroke.Interventions:
Subjects were randomly assigned to: early provision (at inclusion; Week 1) or delayed provision (eight weeks later; Week 9).Outcome measures:
10-metre walk test, 6-minute walk test, Timed Up and Go Test, stairs test, Functional Ambulation Categories, Berg Balance Scale, Rivermead Mobility Index and Barthel Index; assessed in Weeks 1, 3, 9 and 11.Results:
A total of 33 subjects were randomized (16 early, 17 delayed). Positive effects of ankle-foot orthoses were found two weeks after provision, both when provided early (significant effects on all outcomes) or delayed (Berg Balance Scale p = 0.011, Functional Ambulation Categories p = 0.008, 6-minute walk test p = 0.005, Timed Up and Go Test p = 0.028). Comparing effects after early and delayed provision showed that early provision resulted in increased levels of improvement on Berg Balance Scale (+5.1 points, p = 0.002), Barthel Index (+1.9 points, p = 0.002) and non-significant improvements on 10-metre walk test (+0.14 m/s, p = 0.093) and Timed Up and Go Test (–5.4 seconds, p = 0.087), compared with delayed provision.Conclusions:
We found positive effects of providing ankle-foot orthoses in (sub)acute stroke subjects that had not used these orthoses before.