While children with hemiparesis are commonly prescribed AFOs to help improve gait, the orthoses often result in only small and variable changes in gait. In addition, research with adult stroke survivors has suggested that orthoses that extend beyond the ankle using long, passive, tendon-like structures (i.e., exotendons) can improve walking.
For those reasons, researchers conducted a repeated-measures study aimed to quantify the impact of an exotendon-based exoskeleton on pediatric gait.
For the study, two typically developing children and two children with hemiparesis completed a gait analysis, walking without and with the exoskeleton.
The exotendon was tested at three stiffness levels. All children were able to walk comfortably with the exoskeleton, with minimal changes in step width. Walking speed increased and lower-limb joint symmetry improved for the children with hemiparesis with the exoskeleton. Each participant had changes in muscle activity while walking with the exoskeleton, although the impact on specific muscles and response to exotendon stiffness varied.
The study found that exotendon-based exoskeletons may provide an alternative solution for optimizing gait in therapy and in the community for children with hemiparesis.
The study, Evaluation of a passive pediatric leg exoskeleton during gait, was published in Prosthetic and Orthotic International.