A very common challenge that stroke survivors face, and one that can be very frustrating, is difficulty walking. Often, that difficulty stems from something called foot drop. If someone has foot drop, it means they have difficulty in lifting the front part of the foot and may be dragging the foot on the ground as they walk. People with foot drop may catch their toe on the floor as they advance their weak leg, putting them at risk for stumbling and even falling.
Foot drop can be temporary or permanent, but in either case, it not only affects the speed and nature of a person’s gait, it can be dangerous if left untreated. To alleviate its effects, most people are fit with an Ankle Foot Orthosis, more commonly referred to as an AFO. This brace keeps the foot in a rigid position so that the wearer does not trip as they walk.
Currently, Helen Hayes Hospital is participating in a nationwide research study that is evaluating the use of a device called the WalkAide in individuals who have had a stroke and are having problems walking due to foot drop. This clinical trial is called INSTRIDE and it will compare the WalkAide to the traditional AFO to determine which promotes a smoother, more natural step.
The WalkAide is a small, electrical stimulator, about the size of a pager, which is worn on a cuff, just below the knee. Basically, it works by stimulating the nerve in the foot that enables someone to pick up their foot when they take a step.
This clinical research study is being conducted at 30 sites across the country. A total of 496 individuals with stroke are being recruited to participate in the randomized trial. To be eligible for participation, an individual must:
• have had a stroke at least six months ago
• have foot drop (hemiplegia or hemiparesis)
• be able to walk at least 30 feet
• not have had any formal rehabilitation therapy to the leg in the last 30 days
• be eligible for Medicare, Medicare Choice or Medicare Advantage benefits.
Participants in the study will make seven visits to HHH over the course of twelve months. Following the initial evaluation and screening, these follow-up visits will evaluate the individuals’ gait using either the WalkAide device or an AFO.
For additional information about the study, or to see if you or someone you know qualifies, please do not hesitate to contact me at 845-786-4854.
-Laura Tenteromano, RN