WalkAide: Neuro-Prosthetics Technology for the Effective Treatment of Foot Drop
The WalkAide can effectively counteract foot drop by producing dorsiflexion of the ankle during the swing phase of the gait. The small device attaches to the leg, just below the knee, near the head of the fibula. During a gait cycle, the WalkAide stimulates the common peroneal nerve, which innervates the tibialis anterior and other muscles that produce dorsiflexion of the ankle. Users of the WalkAide are people who have lost the ability to voluntarily lift their foot, often as a result of damage to the central nervous system such as stroke, incomplete spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. This type of stimulation will not work with people who have damage to the lower motor neurons/peripheral nerves.
The WalkAide is a battery-operated, single-channel electrical stimulator that can be used to address dropfoot with functional electrical stimulation. WalkAide utilizes a Tilt Sensor to control stimulation during normal gait. A Hand Switch on the WalkLink is used by the clinician during setup to trigger stimulation while the Heel Sensor collects additional data. The clinician uses the WalkAnalyst software on a laptop computer to program the Tilt Sensor in the WalkAide. Use of the Tilt Sensor to trigger stimulation eliminates the need for external wires or remote Heel Sensor during regular use.
Although easy to use, the WalkAide is a sophisticated medical device. Since it leverages functional electrical stimulation (FES) technology, certain precautions should be taken when considering or prescribing use of WalkAide. These include:
Heart Disease — Use caution in applying electrical stimulation to persons suspected of having heart disease. More clinical data is needed to show that such persons will not experience adverse results.
Epilepsy — Use caution in applying electrical stimulation to persons suspected of having epilepsy. More clinical data is needed to show that such a person will not experience adverse events.
Recent Surgery — Do not use FES following recent surgery where muscle contraction may disrupt the healing process.
Proper Use — The safety and efficacy of FES depends on the proper use and handling of the FES system. Improper use of the device or electrodes can result in injury to the user. Regularly check accessories for wear and replace as needed. Electrodes should be firmly secured to the skin. Never use the WalkAide if it appears to be malfunctioning. If there is a change in the way it usually works (i.e. change in sensation, surging of stimulation, intermittent stimulation) do not use the WalkAide and contact your WalkAide-trained clinician immediately.
Electrodes — Do not use lotion or oil in the area that the electrodes make contact with the skin. Stimulation may not be effective.
Sensory Deprivation — Use caution when placing electrodes on areas of the skin with reduced response to normal sensory stimuli, due to the risk of skin burns.
Operating Equipment —The stimulator should not be used while operating potentially dangerous equipment such as automobiles, power lawn mowers or large machinery. Abrupt changes in stimulation level could create a hazard.
Sleeping and Other Daily Activities — The WalkAide should not be worn or used while sleeping or bathing.
Heat and Cold — The use of heat or cold producing devices such as electric blankets, heating pads or ice packs may affect the electrodes or the person’s circulation and increase the risk of injury. A medical doctor and clinician should be consulted before using with FES.
Skin irritation and burns beneath the electrodes have been reported with the use of powered muscle stimulators. Do not leave the electrodes in place for long periods of time without checking or cleaning the skin underneath them. It is normal to observe somewhat reddened areas under the electrode placements; however, the redness should disappear within an hour. Signs of irritation are maintained redness, small pimple-like lesions or blisters. DO NOT continue stimulation over irritated skin.
Children — FES devices should be kept out of the reach of children.
This stimulation activates the muscles that dorsiflex the foot at the appropriate time during the gait cycle, producing a much more natural and efficient pattern of walking, with increased stablity. Further, WalkAide may improve circulation, reduce atrophy, improve voluntary control over time and increase joint range of motion in patients with Foot Drop.
Many people who try WalkAide experience immediate and substantial improvement in their walking ability, which increases their mobility, stability, functionality, overall confidence and independence.
WalkAide is a neuro prosthetics device that channels electrical stimulation to the leg and foot in order to restore typical nerve-to-muscle signals, effectively lifting the foot at the appropriate time. WalkAide is among the most celebrated and highly regarded neuro prosthetic innovations available today because many people experience immediate and substantial improvement in their walking ability.