Neuro-prosthetics is the study and development of medical devices that replace or improve the function of damaged neuromuscular organ systems and restore normal body processes, create or improve function, and/or reduce pain. Examples of neuro-prosthetics devices include cochlear prostheses (the most widely used neuro-prosthetics devices), mechanisms for bladder and bowel control, deep brain stimulation using electrodes, and devices that restore the mobility and respiration of paralyzed individuals. Unlike many neuro-prosthetics devices, which require implantation in the body, WalkAide , which was developed to address foot drop, is a non-invasive device worn on the lower leg.
A discipline that combines neuroscience and biomedical engineering, neuro-prosthetics has become an area of intense scientific and clinical interest and rapid progress. Cochlear implants, which were first introduced in the 1950s and 1960s have, over the years, gone from large, external components that were strapped to the body, to smaller, internally worn devices. Heart pacemakers, which were successfully implanted for the first time in 1960, were originally developed as external devices.
Most neuro-prosthetics devices employ biosensors to detect signals from the user’s nervous or muscular systems and relay this information to a controller located inside the device. Examples include wires that detect electrical activity on the skin, needle electrodes implanted in muscle, or solid-state electrode arrays with nerves growing through them. The controller is connected to the user's nerve and muscular systems and the device itself. It sends intention commands from the user to the actuators of the device, and interprets feedback from the mechanical and biosensors to the user. The controller is also responsible for the monitoring and control of the movements of the device.
Many neuro-prosthetics devices use Functional Electrical Stimulation (commonly abbreviated as FES) to activate nerves, innervating extremities affected by paralysis resulting from incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI), head injury, stroke or other neurological disorders. FES employs small electrical impulses to excite the nerves that supply paralyzed muscles. This activates those muscles, enabling them to produce basic but useful movement.
One of the problems most successfully treated by FES is foot drop (also known as drop foot). Foot drop is a condition caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in lifting the front part of the foot. It makes walking a challenge, causing a person to either drag the foot and toes or engage in a high-stepping walk called steppage gait. Foot drop is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying problem. It is often caused by an interruption in the signal from the brain to the peroneal nerve, which runs along the outside of the lower leg below the knee.
WalkAide is a neuro-prosthetics device that channels functional electrical stimulation to the leg and foot in order to restore typical nerve-to-muscle signals. During the swing phase of walking, the WalkAide electrically stimulates the appropriate muscles that cause ankle dorsiflexion, effectively lifting the foot at the appropriate time. WalkAide is among the most celebrated and highly regarded neuro-prosthetics innovations available today because many people experience immediate and substantial improvement in their walking ability, enabling them to walk faster, further and with less effort. The improvement in the walking pattern reduces the risk of falls and leads people to become more stable and independent in their walking. Other medical benefits of FES may include prevention of muscle disuse or weakness, increased local blood flow, muscle strengthening, and maintained or increased joint range of motion.
As a consistent flow of media recognition has borne out, WalkAide is among the most celebrated and highly regarded neuro prosthetics innovations available today. Unlike many neuro prosthetics devices, which require implantation in the body, WalkAide is a non-invasive device worn on the lower leg.
WalkAide is a sophisticated neuro prosthetic device that addresses Foot Drop (also known as Drop Foot, footdrop and dropfoot). WalkAide can only be prescribed by a physician. As with all orthoses, a thorough evaluation by a credentialed and trained medical professional will determine if WalkAide is right for a particular individual. To find a trained medical professional in your area, go to our Patient Care Center Locator.