Objective To investigate the feasibility of unsupervised community use of an array-based automated setup functional electrical stimulator for current foot-drop functional electrical stimulation (FES) users.
Design Feasibility study.
Setting Gait laboratory and community use.
Participants Participants (N=7) with diagnosis of unilateral foot-drop of central neurologic origin (>6mo) who were regular users of a foot-drop FES system (>3mo).
Intervention Array-based automated setup FES system for foot-drop (ShefStim).
Main Outcome Measures Logged usage, logged automated setup times for the array-based automated setup FES system and diary recording of problems experienced, all collected in the community environment. Walking speed, ankle angles at initial contact, foot clearance during swing, and the Quebec User Evaluation of Satisfaction with Assistive Technology version 2.0 (QUEST version 2.0) questionnaire, all collected in the gait laboratory.
Results All participants were able to use the array-based automated setup FES system. Total setup time took longer than participants' own FES systems, and automated setup time was longer than in a previous study of a similar system. Some problems were experienced, but overall, participants were as satisfied with this system as their own FES system. The increase in walking speed (N=7) relative to no stimulation was comparable between both systems, and appropriate ankle angles at initial contact (N=7) and foot clearance during swing (n=5) were greater with the array-based automated setup FES system.
Conclusions This study demonstrates that an array-based automated setup FES system for foot-drop can be successfully used unsupervised. Despite setup's taking longer and some problems, users are satisfied with the system and it would appear as effective, if not better, at addressing the foot-drop impairment. Further product development of this unique system, followed by a larger-scale and longer-term study, is required before firm conclusions about its efficacy can be reached.