The mechanical characteristics of ankle foot orthoses (AFOs), such as the stiffness and neutral angle around the ankle and metatarsal-phalangeal (MTP) joints, are rarely quantified. Paradoxically, it is expected that these characteristics determine the function of the AFO in pathological gait. Therefore a device to determine these AFO characteristics named BRUCE was designed based on multidisciplinary consensus. The design is based on a replicated human leg that is manually driven and continuously registers joint configuration and force exerted by the AFO onto the device. From this information, neutral angles and stiffnesses around the ankle and MTP joints are determined using a linear fit. The reliability of the stiffnesses and neutral angles was studied by repeatedly measuring the mechanical characteristics of four different AFOs, and evaluating the inter-session, intra-session, and inter-observer errors. The reliability study revealed that ankle and MTP stiffness could be measured with very high reliability (ICC = 0.98-1.00). Ankle and MTP neutral angles showed reasonable reliability (ICC = 0.79-0.92). Measurement error in the neutral angles could mainly be attributed to the difference in testers. With a fixed tester excellent reliability was obtained (ICC = 0.99-0.99). The results derived using BRUCE can help to gain insight into the role of the mechanical characteristics of AFOs in correcting pathological gait. Objective information of AFO characteristics is expected to lead to a better founded prescription of AFOs, resulting in optimal functional benefit for the patient.
- Ankle foot orthoses (AFO)