High-tech device helps stroke victims walk
Posted August 26, 2010
Updated August 27, 2010
Pinehurst, N.C. — A high-tech device is helping stroke patients with lingering weakness learn to walk more normally.
Lisa Tysor, 40, had a stroke in 2003. She's still in physical therapy at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital to strengthen weakness on her left side, particularly in her left leg and foot.
"I have foot drop," Tysor said.
Foot drop is a condition common among stroke patients, in which the ankle is unable to lift the foot as the leg swings through a step.
Most of sufferers wear a large brace. "The bottom part is rigid and forces the foot into an 'up' position," said Brandi Bossinger, a physical therapist with FirstHealth Moore Regional.
"It's very uncomfortable. It can break your skin down," Tysor said.
Tysor, though, now owns and wears a new, high-tech device that comes in three pieces – "the cuff that goes on the actual shin, the control unit, and then there's a foot switch," she described.
The foot piece is clipped to the side of the shoe with a sensor, or stem, under the heel. Two electrodes in the cuff stimulate a particular nerve and muscle.
"When the patient has their foot on the ground, the stem is off, but as soon as they lift up their heel, the stem comes on to pick up their foot," Bossinger explained.
A physical therapist can also operate the device through a remote control and use different modes depending on their patients' needs.
The device is designed to help any patients who have suffered traumatic brain or spinal injuries, as well as muscular sclerosis and stroke.
Tysor said the device is helping her walk more normally and is therapeutic, retraining her brain, muscles and nerves to help her left leg keep up with her right.
"I'm walking a little faster, and I'm going up steps a lot better," she said.