29. April 2010 17:30
An implantable wireless nerve stimulator that corrects 'drop foot' by restoring control of the ankle joint has been launched in the UK.
The ActiGait system from Otto Bock Healthcare could improve the mobility and independence of many stroke sufferers.
The implant stimulates motor nerves in response to movement of the foot, restoring a steadier and more natural walking pattern.
Drop foot, the inability to raise the foot due to muscle weakness or paralysis, is a common result of nervous damage following a stroke.
ActiGait is implanted beneath the skin of the thigh, with the control unit worn on a belt. It is less cumbersome and more user-friendly than wired devices with external electrodes.
Studies carried out with 15 patients in Denmark showed that Actigait increased the speed and distance of independent walking in patients suffering from drop foot, and improved their confidence.
The implant has several components. A wireless heel switch registers the lifting and placement of the foot and triggers signals from a control unit via a lightweight antenna on the thigh. The signals pass through the skin to an implanted cuff electrode around the motor nerve that activates the muscles of the front and lower leg.
Dr. Salim Ghoussayni, Business Development Manager for Neurostimulation at Otto Bock Healthcare, said: "Feedback from patient studies in Europe has revealed that ActiGait enables stroke patients to walk longer distances at an increased speed and with improved confidence. As it is implantable, it also offers a more cosmetic and practical user-friendly alternative for individuals who cannot use a surface device due to skin reactions, for example."
Otto Bock is a supplier of assistive technologies that restore mobility and support independence.