Content » Vol 51, Issue 1

Original report

Effect of long-term use of ankle-foot orthoses on tibialis anterior muscle electromyography in patients with sub-acute stroke: A randomized controlled trial

Corien Nikamp, Jaap Buurke, Leendert Schaake, Job van der Palen, Johan Rietman, Hermie Hermens
Roessingh Research and Development, NL-7500 AH Enschede, The Netherlands. E-mail: c.nikamp@rrd.nl

DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2498

Abstract

Objective: To determine: (i) whether the use of ankle-foot orthoses over a period of 26 weeks affects tibialis anterior muscle activity; (ii) whether the timing of provision of ankle-foot orthoses (early or delayed) affects the results; (iii) whether the provision of ankle-foot orthoses affects tibialis anterior muscle activity within a single measurement.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Subjects: Unilateral hemiparetic subjects, a maximum of 6 weeks post-stroke.
Methods: Subjects were assigned randomly to early (at inclusion; week 1) or delayed provision of ankle-foot orthoses (8 weeks later; week 9). Tibialis anterior electromyography was measured with and without ankle-foot orthoses, in study weeks 1, 9, 17 and 26.
Results: A total of 26 subjects were analysed. In a single measurement, use of an ankle-foot orthosis significantly reduced the activity levels of the tibialis anterior muscle during the swing phase (p = 0.041) compared with walking without an ankle-foot or-thosis. During the 26-week follow-up, no changes were found in tibialis anterior muscle activity in the swing phase without an ankle-foot orthosis, both within-groups (p = 0.420 early; p = 0.282 delayed), and between-groups (p = 0.987). After 26 weeks, no differences were found in tibialis anterior muscle activity between both groups in the swing phase, with (p = 0.207) or without ankle-foot orthoses (p = 0.310).
Conclusion: Use of ankle-foot orthoses post-stroke reduced tibialis anterior muscle activity in the swing phase within 1 measurement; however, long-term use of ankle-foot orthoses for 26 weeks did not affect such activity. Early or delayed provision of ankle-foot orthoses did not affect the findings. The results indicate that there is no need to fear negative consequences on tibialis anterior-activity because of long-term AFO-use (early) after stroke.

Lay Abstract

Ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) are often used to improve walking after stroke. However, it is unknown whether early or later provision of AFOs affects muscle activity, and what are the effects of long-term AFO use after stroke. Some clinicians fear that early use of AFO after stroke has negative effects on muscles around the ankle. Therefore, we studied the effect of AFO use on the tibialis anterior muscle in 26 subjects after stroke. Subjects were prescribed an AFO in week 1 of the study, or 8 weeks later. Muscle activity was measured 4 times over a period of 26 weeks. We found that AFO use reduced muscle activity levels compared with walking without an AFO within 1 measurement. However, long-term use of an AFO for a period of 26 weeks did not affect muscle activity. These effects were the same for the subjects provided with the AFO in week 1 or 8 weeks later. This study did not find any negative effects on activity of the tibialis anterior muscle with long-term use of an AFO early after stroke.

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