Functional electrical stimulation versus ankle foot orthoses for foot-drop: A meta-analysis of orthotic effects

Sarah Prenton, Kristen L. Hollands, Laurence P J Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To compare the effects on walking of functional electrical stimulation (FES) and ankle foot orthoses for footdrop of central neurological origin, assessed in terms of unassisted walking behaviours compared with assisted walking following a period of use (combined-orthotic effects). Data sources: MEDLINE, AMED, CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Scopus, REHABDATA, PEDro, NIHR Centre for Reviews and Dissemination and, plus reference list, journal, author and citation searches. Study selection: English language comparative randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Data synthesis: Seven RCTs were eligible for inclusion. Two of these reported different results from the same trial and another 2 reported results from different follow-up periods and were therefore combined, resulting in 5 synthesized trials with 815 stroke participants. Meta-analyses of data from the final assessment in each study and 3 overlapping time-points showed comparable improvements in walking speed over 10 m (p = 0.04-0.79), functional exercise capacity (p = 0.10-0.31), timed up-and-go (p = 0.812 and p = 0.539) and perceived mobility (p = 0.80) for both interventions. Conclusion: Data suggest that, in contrast to assumptions that predict FES superiority, ankle foot orthoses have equally positive combined-orthotic effects as FES on key walking measures for foot-drop caused by stroke. However, further long-term, high-quality RCTs are required. These should focus on measuring the mechanisms-of-action; whether there is translation of improvements in impairment to function, plus detailed reporting of the devices used across diagnoses. Only then can robust clinical recommendations be made.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-656
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


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