FOR RELEASE: 8/10/2011Contact: John Cappiello, (203) 384-3637

Ahlbin Rehabilitation Centers therapists use new device to help patients with foot drop

With help from the physical therapy team at Ahlbin Rehabilitation Centers and an innovative electronic device known as the WalkAide, Amanda Catalano of Milford, who has a condition known as foot drop, is able to walk more easily without cumbersome braces or orthotic boots.

Foot drop affects approximately 10 million people in the United States who have conditions such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, stroke and spinal cord injury.

Amanda, whose foot drop is linked to cerebral palsy, often walks with one of the adopted dogs—seven at the moment, ranging in size from an Italian greyhound to a Yorkshire terrier—that she and her family care for. They also have three cats and some birds.

Before Ahlbin Centers therapists provided her with a WalkAide for each leg, Amanda, 23, needed braces and ankle-foot orthotic boots to help maintain her balance while walking.

“My feet turned in while walking,” she says. “It took a long time to get from one place to another. Thanks to the WalkAide, my feet point forward now, which makes it easier to walk longer distances.”

For Amanda, the ability to move around more easily is a big plus not only at home but also on the job at the Milford Library. A little larger than a cell phone, the battery-powered WalkAide is strapped around the lower leg and emits low-level electrical stimulation to the peroneal nerve.

“By stimulating the peroneal nerve, the device activates muscles that the patient is otherwise unable to activate sufficiently to hold up the foot while walking,” explains Lisa Webb, MD, Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Bridgeport Hospital and Medical Director of the hospital’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit.

Dr. Webb also says that because the WalkAide is lighter in weight than traditional ankle-foot orthotics, it is easier for patients to advance their legs.

“In combination with physical therapy, the WalkAide has shown great promise in improving quality of gait, gait speed and overall quality of life,” says Amanda’s physical therapist, Lisa Vallera. “Another benefit of the WalkAide is that patients can choose various types of footwear and not just shoes that can accommodate a brace.”

The WalkAide is just one approach used by the Ahlbin Centers therapy team to help patients counter the loss of function due to injury or illness. The team provides physical, occupational and speech therapy at Bridgeport Hospital and five outpatient sites in Bridgeport, Shelton, Southport, Stratford and Trumbull. The Bridgeport and Southport sites also provide pediatric rehabilitation services.

For more information about physical therapy services for patients with foot drop and other conditions, call Ahlbin Centers at 203-380-4672.

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Part of Yale New Haven Health System, Bridgeport Hospital is a 383-bed acute care hospital (plus 42 beds licensed to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital) serving parts of Fairfield and New Haven counties. The hospital admits more than 18,000 patients and receives more than 240,000 outpatient visits annually.