Orthotic devices and gait in polio patients

Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2010 Feb;53(1):51-9. doi: 10.1016/j.rehab.2009.11.005. Epub 2009 Dec 9.


Polio survivors are aging and facing multiple pathologies. With age, walking becomes more difficult, partly due to locomotor deficits but also as a result of weight gain, osteoarticular degeneration, pain, cardiorespiratory problems or even post polio syndrome (PPS). These additional complications increase the risk of falls in this population where the risk of fractures is already quite high. The key joint is the knee. The muscles stabilizing this joint are often weak and patients develop compensatory gait strategies, which could be harmful to the locomotor system at medium or long term. Classically, knee recurvatum is used to lock the knee during weight bearing; however, if it exceeds 10 degrees , the knee becomes unstable and walking is unsafe. Thus, regular medical monitoring is necessary. Orthoses play an important role in the therapeutic care of polio survivors. The aim is usually to secure the knee, preventing excessive recurvatum while respecting the patient's own gait. Orthoses must be light and pressure-free if they are to be tolerated and therefore effective. Other joints present fewer problems and orthoses are rarely indicated just for them. The main issue lies in the prior evaluation of treatments' impact. Some deformities may be helpful for the patients' gait and, therefore, corrections may worsen their gait, especially if a realignment of segments is attempted. It is therefore essential to carefully pre-assess any change brought to the orthoses as well as proper indications for corrective surgery. In addition, it is essential for the patient to be monitored by a specialized team.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / physiopathology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology
  • Orthotic Devices*
  • Poliomyelitis / physiopathology
  • Poliomyelitis / rehabilitation*