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High-Tech Device Helps Stroke Patients Walk Normally

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Among stroke survivors and patients suffering from other neurological or muscular disorders, one common difficulty they face is foot drop, a partial leg paralysis that prevents the foot from lifting. Foot drop causes instability and difficulty walking. Now, Rush University Medical Center is offering a high-tech device to help brain injury patients regain the ability to walk more naturally and improve mobility.

The unique, lightweight device called the NESS L300 neuro-rehabilitation system is a noninvasive, wireless leg brace worn on the lower leg. Small sensors placed by the heel of the foot detect whether the patient’s foot is in the air or on the ground.

Electrodes transmit painless electronic stimulation to the peroneal nerve to activate the calf muscle and correct a patient’s gait. When weight is taken off the patient’s foot, the brace sends a signal to contract muscles inside the calf allowing the foot to swing forward.

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“Foot drop is a condition where the muscles in the foot are too weak to properly lift the foot, heel and toes while walking,” said Dr. James Young, medical director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Rush. “It is often present in patients who have suffered a stroke, traumatic brain injury, incomplete spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.”

The device has proved beneficial not only in patient who recently suffered traumatic brain injuries, but also patients who have suffered from several years of immobility or from strokes several years ago.

“The device has helped our patients retrain and regain control of their bodies and achieve greater mobility and independence,” said Young. “We have seen vast improvements in patients such as walking coordination, speed and blood flow and a decrease in the effort required during walking while wearing the device.”

The NESS L300 is offered on an inpatient and outpatient basis at Rush. The medical center also offers a similar device for rehabilitation of arm movement called the NESS H200.

The NESS H200 is a small wireless, portable device that comprises of a hand a forearm brace with five surface electrodes that stimulate muscles to initiate grasp, release and thumb movements.