Calf claudication associated with peripheral artery disease results in limited walking ability and diminished quality of life. Ankle-foot orthoses (AFO) have been used to mitigate calf pain during community-based walking exercise, yet little is known about patients’ perspectives of this novel device. The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine the personal impact AFO had on patients who used them. Ten patients with calf claudication who previously completed a 12-week unstructured community-based walking program supplemented by AFO participated in a semi-structured recorded focus group. After data saturation was achieved, transcripts were coded and analyzed, and 2 primary themes emerged from the focus groups: 1) positive functional impact of AFO on walking ability and quality of life and 2) self-selected AFO usage patterns. Six subthemes included 1) positive ambulatory changes from using AFO, 2) sustained ambulatory improvements without AFO, 3) positive psychosocial impact, 4) optimal conditions for AFO usage, 5) optimal ambulatory surfaces when using AFO, and 6) challenges with comorbidities. The AFO were influential in decreasing claudication symptoms, improving walking capacity, and enhancing participation in meaningful daily and recreational activities. This study explores experiential knowledge of patients with calf claudication describing AFO as an effective tool to enhance unstructured walking programs. Further trials are needed to optimize device design and effectiveness in varying walking environments.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Mountain West Clinical Translational Research–Infrastructure Network under award U54GM104944. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests: R.J.M. receives research funding for two peripheral artery disease–related trials funded by the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and the University of Minnesota Foundation. The other authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and publication of this article.
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