Rehabilitation after a brain or spinal cord injury is usually a slow, step by step process. One thing patients often have to work on is walking.
Now advanced technology is helping patients gain control of their feet much faster.
Jim is a stroke patient at St. Francis Health Center who's reaping the benefits of the Bioness Ness L-300. It's an electronic device that's teaching his foot to move correctly.
Patients who suffer a brain or spinal cord injury often have what's called a "foot drop," meaning their toes tend to drop when they try to take a step.
The Ness L-300 is helping patients like Jim step with the heel first. "He's actually getting that heel strike we like to see," says St. Francis Physical Therapist Faye Homes.
The device has two parts, one that straps around the leg just below the knee and another that goes inside the patient's shoe. The sensor in the shoe tells the device when the patient lifts their foot, and the part below the knee sends a small electrical current down a nerve to a muscle in the foot, that brings the toe up.
The patient uses the Ness L-300 in therapy sessions at the hospital, and if need be, they'll get a device to wear at home. "We have had patients achieve what we want them to achieve before getting the home unit," explains Homes.
Even if a patient does need a home unit, Homes says it's a big improvement over the alternative, an ankle foot orthosis that braces the foot to keep the toe from falling. It's worn indefinitely, but the Ness L-300 will eventually re-educate the muscle and nerve, so the patient won't need it any more.
In it's short time at St. Francis, the Ness L-300 is giving patients like Jim better balance and freedom and impressing therapists. "The first time I used it, I got so excited," says Hoomes, "because it was a patient I had been working with for at least two months and never saw this patient's heel strike. I put it on him, and 100% heel strike. I got so excited; I was sold at that moment.
Homes says St. Francis is the only facility in our area to currently use the Ness L-300.