Research presented in March at the American Association of Orthotists & Prosthetists meeting in Atlanta reported that switching patients with foot drop from a molded plastic ankle foot orthosis (AFO) to energy reflecting carbon open-heel AFOs made by Rockaway, NJ-based Allard USA significantly increased calf circumference eight weeks after the change.
Prior to the switch, 10 of the 19 study patients wore posterior leaf spring AFOs, six wore solid ankle AFOs, and three wore articulated AFOs. Investigators from Capital Prosthetics & Orthotics in Columbia, SC, and Chapman University in Orange, CA, measured baseline calf circumference and walking speed and surveyed patients about their perceived ability to conceal the device, comfort, balance, weight, stability, and end-of-the-day strength. Patients then received open-heel AFOs; 13 were fitted with Allard’s ToeOff AFO, five with the BlueRocker, and one in the Ypsilon.
After eight weeks of wear, calf circumference and all other data measures except for walking speed and distance increased significantly from baseline. Investigators concluded that calf atrophy observed in patients with foot drop is not just a result of their neurological deficits, but also is influenced by the calcaneal immobility linked to wearing molded AFOs.