A team of researchers from Scotland compared the Odstock Dropped Foot Stimulator (ODFS) and the Innovative Neurotronics WalkAide functional electrical stimulation (FES) systems on energy cost and speed of walking in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The aim of their study was to compare the immediate orthotic effect on walking of the two different devices. The results were published March 17 in the online journal Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.
A cohort of ten female and ten male patients with MS who were currently using the ODFS for foot drop were recruited. Participants walked for five minutes around an elliptical 9.5m course at their preferred walking speed, once with the ODFS, once with the WalkAide, and once without FES on the same day of testing. Gait speed, distance, and energy cost were measured. The results indicate that there was a statistically significant increase in walking speed for the ODFS (p = 0.043) and a near-to-significant increase for the WalkAide (p = 0.06) in comparison to without FES. There were no differences between the ODFS and WalkAide in terms of walking speed (p = 0.596) or energy cost (p = 0.205). This is the first pilot study to compare the effects of two different FES devices on walking, the researchers said, adding that further research is needed and that non-FES participants should be recruited to conduct a randomized controlled trial.