Purpose: Children with spastic unilateral cerebral palsy (SUCP) frequently undergo lower limb surgery to improve gait. Postoperatively, ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) are used to maintain the surgical corrections and provide adequate mechanical support. Our aim was to evaluate changes in gait and impacts of AFOs one-year postoperatively.
Methods: In all, 33 children with SUCP, 17 girls and 16 boys, mean age 9.2 years (5 to 16.5) were measured by 3D gait analysis walking barefoot preoperatively and walking barefoot and with AFOs one-year postoperatively. Changes in Gait Profile Scores (GPS), kinematic, kinetic and temporal spatial variables were examined using linear mixed models, with gender, gross motor function and AFO type as fixed effects.
Results: The results confirm significant gait improvements in the GPS, kinematics and kinetics walking barefoot one year after surgery. Comparing AFOs with barefoot walking postoperatively, there was additionally reduced ankle plantarflexion by an average of 5.1° and knee flexion by 4.7° at initial contact, enhanced ankle moments during loading response, increased velocity, longer steps and inhibited push-off power generation. Stance and swing phase dorsiflexion increased in children walking with hinged AFOs versus children walking with ground reaction AFOs. Changes in the non-affected limbs indicated less compensatory gait postoperatively.
Conclusion: Major changes were found between pre- and postoperative barefoot conditions. The main impact of AFOs was correction of residual drop foot and improved prepositioning for initial contact, which could be considered as indications for continued use after the one-year follow-up.
Level of evidence: Level II - Therapeutic.
Keywords: ankle-foot orthoses; gait; orthopaedic surgery; postoperative; unilateral cerebral palsy.
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