December 2012

Allard USA: Family-owned company offers devices to meet many needs

By Cary Groner

Despite a long career that includes stints with several prominent orthotics companies, Carol Paez, director of customer satisfaction and general manager of Allard USA, said she is still growing up.

It’s a natural feeling for someone who enjoys her work as much as Paez does. Allard, a subsidiary of Sweden-based Camp Scandinavia AB, is part of a family-owned company that has developed a full line of products including carbon composite ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) for adults and children, as well as KAFOs, ankle braces, and walkers.

“Our composites include carbon, Fiberglas, and Kevlar,” Paez said. “The materials all work together with an anterior plate design and lateral strut that goes down into the footplate, so when someone takes a step, the energy passes through the composite strut to give a lift to the footplate. It’s a dynamic design.”

Allard’s thin, light AFOs are designed to avoid pressure on the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, and the open heel allows the calcaneus to invert and evert during gait. The devices come in three models for adults: the Ypsilon, the ToeOff, and the BlueRocker.

“Our products are gradated by size, to try to match the dynamic response to the challenges of the individual patient, whether those are neurological deficits or extra weight,” Paez said.

Clinicians whose patients have simple foot drop, for example, without other ankle complications, would probably choose the Ypsilon (named for the AFO’s lightweight Y-shaped design), because it has a three-point fixation system that allows ankle movement.

Those with more ankle involvement or knee problems would more likely be prescribed a ToeOff, which is more rigid and has a four-point fixation system. Finally, those with more proximal deficits, including weak quadriceps, would be best served by the stability and rigidity of a BlueRocker, according to Paez.

All of the products are appropriate for patients who have lost dorsiflexion capability due to conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, postpolio syndrome, and cerebral palsy. For those who like a little flash with their AFO, the ToeOff Fantasy offers a sleek colorful outer finish that’s less likely to hang up on the inside of pants. Both ToeOffs and BlueRockers can be fabricated for a custom fit.

The company’s pediatric products are designed similarly, with the KiddieGait line offering correction for problems ranging from pes varus or valgus to foot drop, gait deviation secondary to proprioceptive deficit, and spasticity (which requires the addition of a heel cup to encourage heel-to-toe gait).

“Often, the KiddieGait is used in combination with an SMO [supramalleolar orthosis] or another orthotic to help position the foot,” Paez explained.

The company offers an ankle joint called the Kid-Dee-Lite, to be used in the fabrication of custom AFOs for kids with neuromuscular disorders including cerebral palsy and spina bifida.

To help clinicians select the right product for any given patient, Allard offers prepackaged gait assessment kits, which include six braces—small, medium, and large in both left and right models.

“The kits are available for Ypsilon, ToeOff, BlueRocker, and KiddieGait,” Paez said. “The AFOs aren’t for resale; they’re designed to let the orthotist determine the best product for the patient. The kits have a below-knee interface so the orthotist can get a preliminary idea of which will work best.”

Allard also makes a line of knee braces called CHECK—“Comfortable Hyper-Extension Control Knee”—which offers dual-axis joints for full knee flexion. The braces are available in either stainless steel or aluminum.

“Our products have to function, but they also have to be designed so the patients will wear them,” Paez said. “The CHECK was developed as an alternative to the Swedish knee cage, which is a bulky metal product that is harder to get patients to wear. The CHECK is very lightweight and low profile, but it’s still strong enough to do the job, and we think that improves compliance.”

For patients with knee hyperextension accompanied by foot drop, the company has developed a product called the Combo, a carbon composite knee brace that can be combined with the company’s AFOs to make a lightweight custom KAFO.

Allard also offers a variety of off-the-shelf products under its “CSUS” product designation; these include an array of knee supports: wrap-style, pull-on, hinged, spring stay, full buttress, anterior cruciate ligament, patellar stabilization, and two immobilizers.

There are also several models of walker, both low- and high-top, which have rocker-bottom soles, as well as a line of ankle braces and gel stirrups, not to mention night splints.

“For these products we wanted comfortable materials that would be lightweight, functional, attractive, and easy for the patient to apply,” Paez said. “The idea is to have a one-stop shop for orthopedic supports, and we have such a wide variety partly because the decision often comes down to the physician’s preference.”

Cary Groner is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Article sponsored by Allard USA.

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