Horton Achieves Technology Breakthrough

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Kathy, a polio patient from Florida, Participated in clinical trials with orthotist last August.
Kathy, a polio patient from Florida, Participated in clinical trials with orthotist last August.

Gary Horton, CO, has accomplished what hundreds of engineers around the world have tried to do-and failed. After eight years of hard work, Horton and a team of specialists he put together have developed the Stance Control Orthotic Knee Joint.

"We have dreamed for ages of having a knee joint for orthotic patients that would automatically unlock for swing phase but safely re-engage for stance stability," said John Michael, CPO, FISPO, FAAOP, who is conducting practitioner qualification courses for the device. The only other somewhat similar product is a device in Scandinavia with limited applications, Michael said. "It has failed twice in the US market and is more complicated and costly," he added.

The joint allows a KAFO to lock the knee at heel strike and release at heel off, providing a normal gait. The joint is ideal for patients with weak quads due to polio, spinal cord injuries, and other conditions. The joint, which has a switch, can be used three ways: 1) free knee, 2) locked in 180-degree extension, and 3) stance control mode.

The Horton Stance Control Knee Brace Joint has a switch and can be used in three ways: 1) free knee, 2) locked in 180-degree extension, or 3) stance control mode.
The Horton Stance Control Knee Brace Joint has a switch and can be used in three ways: 1) free knee, 2) locked in 180-degree extension, or 3) stance control mode.

Gary Horton's voice resonates with enthusiasm as he describes the knee joint's development. Horton owns Horton's Orthotic Lab, Little Rock, Arkansas, along with offices in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Searcy, Arkansas; and satellite clinics in Batesville and Greenville, both in Mississippi. The story began when Horton asked the NASA Technology Transfer Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Alabama, for assistance with a different product he was working on. The Technology Transfer Program encourages broad use of MSFC-developed technologies by American private enterprise. Horton was invited to MSFC to discuss this other project. Learning that Horton is an orthotist, engineers showed him some designs for a knee joint.

One particular design by Neill Myers caught his eye. Together NASA engineers and Horton's company worked on the design. A prototype was produced and Horton's signed a licensing agreement with Marshall.

Pete, a Delta Airlines pilot injured in a traffic accident, wears the Stance Control Knee Joint Brace.  Pete hopes that the brace will enable him to fly again.
Pete, a Delta Airlines pilot injured in a traffic accident, wears the Stance Control Knee Joint Brace. Pete hopes that the brace will enable him to fly again.

However, design problems remained. The device was difficult to machine. Further work was needed. Horton enlisted the aid of the Arkansas Manufacturing Extension Network, a program of the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority. The Network offers assistance to manufacturers through field engineers stationed in various cities. The engineer enlisted to assist Horton was John Hebard of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Together they found solutions, and the Horton Stance Control Knee Joint was ready to launch.

A highlight for Gary Horton was the inclusion of the knee brace as one of a handful of technologies featured during an observance honoring the tenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at the vice president's residence in October, 2000. An orthosis incorporating the Stance Control Knee Joint was the only O&P technology included and presented to then-Vice President Al Gore.

Practitioner qualification courses for the new device have been filled. At the recent American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) meeting in Orlando, Florida, the Horton's booth was extremely busy and the qualification course overflowed with 90 practitioners, when only about 35 were expected.

A boy, along with his father and sister, enjoys last year's
A boy, along with his father and sister, enjoys last year's

Teamwork between government and private enterprise, as well as Gary Horton's vision and willingness to fund the dream largely out of his own pocket has brought space technology to earth for the benefit of countless rehabilitation patients.

Patient Criteria

Indications:

  • Isolated quad weakness/absence
  • Unilateral leg paralysis/paresis
  • Increased stability for FR AFO candidates
    Eric 33, was injured in a hang gliding accident.  He traveled from canada with his orthotist for the clinical trials last August.  Eric loves to dance and has been able to enjoy this pastime with his new brace.
    Eric 33, was injured in a hang gliding accident. He traveled from canada with his orthotist for the clinical trials last August. Eric loves to dance and has been able to enjoy this pastime with his new brace.

  • Increased stability for offset knee KAFO wearers
  • Increased stability for free knee KAFO wearers
  • Increased stability for solid ankle/PFstop AFO wearers

Contraindications:

  • Total loading >200 lb./91k
  • Significantly impaired cognition, balance, or motivation
  • Uncorrectable genu varum/valgum >10 degrees
  • Knee flexion contracture >10 degrees
  • Biological knee joint >5 degrees off line of progression in swing phase

 


Eric 33, was injured in a hang gliding accident.  He traveled from canada with his orthotist for the clinical trials last August.  Eric loves to dance and has been able to enjoy this pastime with his new brace.
Eric 33, was injured in a hang gliding accident. He traveled from canada with his orthotist for the clinical trials last August. Eric loves to dance and has been able to enjoy this pastime with his new brace.



Ashely, age 10, who has spina bifida, shows off her First Place trophy during the 2001
Ashely, age 10, who has spina bifida, shows off her First Place trophy during the 2001