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Fixing foot drop

September 20, 2010 9:49:57 AM PDT
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, but thanks to new technology and treatment, there are also 6.5 million survivors in the country.More than 20 percent of those survivors suffer from foot drop, the inability to raise the foot because of weakness or paralysis. A new, personalized device is helping survivors feel sturdier on their feet.

It's helping one proud mom keep up with her famous daughter. Linda Krohn isn't reading just any magazine. Her daughter graces the cover.

"This was her dream ever since she was 8," Krohn told Ivanhoe.

She's the proud mom of Olympic gold medalist skier Lindsey Vonn.

"Lindsey is just one example of what hard work can do," Krohn said.

That work ethic runs in the family. But for years, Krohn's foot drop held her back. She had a stroke while giving birth to Lindsey. The nerves in her left foot and ankle never recovered.

"This muscle doesn't get any nerve impulses from my brain at all," Krohn explained. "With a foot drop, I would catch my toe, so it's dangerous."

She has a smoother, faster step now thanks to a device designed just for her.

"The peroneal nerve is the nerve that we're after here," Roger Wagner, CPO of Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics, said.

Computer software pinpoints Krohn's peroneal nerve. Those measurements are transmitted through blue tooth technology into a control unit and cuff she wears while walking. Instead of a one-size-fits-all device, practitioners line up the electrodes exactly with Krohn's nerve. They deliver the electrical signal that tells her foot to pick up.

"The placement of the electrodes is unique to everyone," Wagner explained.

Each patient has a tiny permanent mark telling them where her cuff should go.

"It's very critical to get it exactly where it needs to be," Wagner said.

This new device is helping Krohn be where she needs to be; which includes cheering on her champion daughter on the slopes, on the screen and even on a cereal box.

"It's hard to believe she's my daughter," Krohn said.

The cuff is an improvement on the walk-aide system. Originally, patients had to guess where to put the cuff many times not hitting the nerve in the right spot. Besides stroke, this is approved to help people with foot drop as a result of multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and cerebral palsy.


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