Helping people to walk in a shocking way

From head trauma, to stroke, to MS, a potentially dangerous condition can strike people with these and other problems.

It affects the feet and makes every step a struggle. Now a new device can help people stay on their feet and out of wheelchairs.

We walk an average of three to five thousand steps every day.

For people like Charles, Linda and Denina, each step is literally a drag.

"I'll start dragging that right foot pretty good," says foot drop Patient Charles Herbert.

"It's very frustrating," describes Linda Neiman.

"It's like picking up dead weight," explains Denina Gilliam about how difficult it is to walk.

All three have Foot Drop, a condition caused by underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical problems that makes it difficult to walk.

Methodist Hospital Doctor Jenny Lai says it puts patients at risk for nasty falls. "And they're coming in with head injuries or broken hips."

Now for the first time these three are trying the Bioness. It straps on the thighs and legs and sends electrical stimulation to muscles and nerves.

"The device will help you to lift up your ankle and to move forward,” explains Dr. Lai.

"I don't feel the tightness in my muscles,” describes Linda.

Denina and Charles notice a difference too.

"I feel it bending, help bending the knee,” says Denina.

"It wasn't like a miracle or anything, but it was easier,” says Charles.

Some You-Tube videos highlight almost instant changes. One claims to show a woman going from this to this in a matter of 30 minutes with the device.

While Linda, Charles and Denina didn't see life-changing results during their first session they did after more sessions.

"I think I'll give it another try," says Charles.

"I definitely feel it's a plus," explains Linda.

The doctor says it can take up to eight sessions for patients to get the best results.

She tells us besides a foot splint or surgery, there aren't many other treatments for foot drop.

She tells us about 50 percent of private insurance companies cover the Bioness, but at this point Medicare does not.


REPORT: MB # 3472

BACKGROUND: Foot drop, sometimes called drop foot, is a general term for difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. If you have foot drop, you may drag the front of your foot on the ground when you walk. Foot drop isn't a disease. Rather, foot drop is a sign of an underlying neurological, muscular or anatomical problem. Sometimes foot drop is temporary. In other cases, foot drop is permanent.
(SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

FOOT DROP SYMPTOMS: Foot drop makes it difficult to lift the front part of your foot, so it might drag on the floor when you walk. To counter this, you might raise your thigh when you walk, as if you were climbing stairs (steppage gait), to help your foot clear the floor. This odd gait might cause you to slap your foot down onto the floor with each step you take. In some cases, the skin on the top of your foot and toes may feel numb.

Foot drop typically affects only one foot. Depending on the underlying cause, however, it's possible for both feet to be affected. See a doctor if your toes drag on the floor when you walk.
(SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

PUTTING YOURSELF AT RISK: The peroneal nerve controls the muscles that lift your foot. This nerve runs near the surface of your skin on the side of your knee closest to your hand. Activities that compress this nerve can increase your risk of foot drop.

Examples include:

-Crossing your legs. People who habitually cross their legs can compress the peroneal nerve on their uppermost leg.
-Prolonged kneeling. Occupations that involve prolonged squatting or kneeling - such as picking strawberries or laying floor tile - can result in foot drop.
-Wearing a leg cast. Plaster casts that enclose the ankle and end just below the knee can exert pressure on the peroneal nerve.
(SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

"ELECTRIFYING LEGS" WITH THE BIONESS: The Bioness comes in two models: The Bioness L300 Foot Drop System, which consists of a leg cuff and the L300 Plus, which includes a leg cuff and a thigh cuff. The system applies electrical stimulation in a precise sequence, which then activates the muscles and nerves to lift the foot and bend or extend the knee. The result is a more natural walking pattern (gait) combined with enhanced stability and confidence. The systems work wirelessly and are programmed by your clinician to work specifically for you.

The maker claims the Bioness systems:

-Assist with a more natural walking pattern (gait)
-Reeducate muscles
-Reduce muscle loss
-Maintain or improve range of motion
-Increase local blood circulation

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George Kovacik
Media Relations
The Methodist Hospital System
(832) 667-5844

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