Objective: To investigate the effects of total-contact fitted carbon-composite knee-ankle-foot orthoses (KAFOs) on energy cost of walking in patients with former polio who normally wear a conventional leather/metal KAFO or plastic/metal KAFO.
Design: A prospective uncontrolled study with a multiple baseline and follow-up design. Follow-up measurements continued until 26 weeks after intervention.
Participants: Twenty adults with polio residuals (mean age 55 years).
Intervention: Each participant received a new carbon-composite KAFO, fitted according to a total-contact principle, which resulted in a rigid, lightweight and well-fitting KAFO.
Outcome measures: Energy cost of walking, walking speed, biomechanics of gait, physical functioning and patient satisfaction.
Results: The energy cost decreased significantly, by 8%, compared with the original KAFO. Furthermore, the incremention energy cost during walking with the carbon-composite KAFO was reduced by 18% towards normative values. An improvement in knee flexion, forward excursion of the centre of pressure, peak ankle moment, and timing of peak ankle power were significantly associated with the decrease in energy cost. Walking speed and physical functioning remained unchanged.
Conclusion: In patients with former polio, carbon-composite KAFOs are superior to conventional leather/metal and plastic/metal KAFOs with respect to improving walking efficiency and gait, and are therefore important in reducing overuse and maintaining functional abilities in polio survivors.