Aim Ankle–foot orthoses are the standard of care for foot drop in cerebral palsy (CP), but may overly constrain ankle movement and limit function in those with mild CP. Functional electrical stimulation (FES) may be a less restrictive and more effective alternative, but has rarely been used in CP. The primary objective of this study was to conduct the first trial in CP examining the acceptability and clinical effectiveness of a novel, commercially available device that delivers FES to stimulate ankle dorsiflexion.
Method Twenty-one individuals were enrolled (Gross Motor Function Classification System [GMFCS] levels I and II, mean age 13y 2mo). Gait analyses in FES and non-FES conditions were performed at two walking speeds over a 4 month period of device use. Measures included ankle kinematics and spatiotemporal variables. Differences between conditions were revealed using repeated measures multivariate analyses of variance.
Results Nineteen individuals (nine females, 10 males; mean age 12y 11mo, range 7y 5mo to 19y 11mo; 11 at GMFCS level I, eight at level II) completed the FES intervention, with all but one choosing to continue using FES beyond that phase. Average daily use was 5.6 hours (SD 2.3). Improved dorsiflexion was observed during swing (mean and peak) and at foot–floor contact, with partial preservation of ankle plantarflexion at toe-off when using the FES at self-selected and fast walking speeds. Gait speed was unchanged.
Interpretation This FES device was well accepted and effective for foot drop in those with mild gait impairments from CP.