High-energy extremity trauma is common in combat. Orthotic options for patients whose lower extremities have been salvaged are limited. A custom energy-storing ankle-foot orthosis, the Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis (IDEO), was created and used with high-intensity rehabilitation as part of the Return to Run clinical pathway. We hypothesized that the IDEO would improve functional performance compared with a non-custom carbon fiber orthosis (BlueRocker), a posterior leaf spring orthosis, and no brace.Methods:
Eighteen subjects with unilateral dorsiflexion and/or plantar flexion weakness were evaluated with six functional tests while they were wearing the IDEO, BlueRocker, posterior leaf spring, or no brace. The brace order was randomized, and five trials were completed for each of the functional measures, which included a four-square step test, a sit-to-stand five times test, tests of self-selected walking velocity over level and rocky terrain, and a timed stair ascent. They also completed one trial of a forty-yard (37-m) dash, filled out a satisfaction questionnaire, and indicated whether they had ever considered an amputation and, if so, whether they still intended to proceed with it.Results:
Performance was significantly better with the IDEO with respect to all functional measures compared with all other bracing conditions (p < 0.004), with the exception of the sit-to-stand five times test, in which there was a significant improvement only as compared with the BlueRocker (p = 0.014). The forty-yard dash improved by approximately 35% over the values for the posterior leaf spring and no-brace conditions, and by 28% over the BlueRocker. The BlueRocker demonstrated a significant improvement in the forty-yard dash compared with no brace (p = 0.033), and a significant improvement in self-selected walking velocity on level terrain compared with no brace and the posterior leaf spring orthosis (p < 0.028). However, no significant difference was found among the posterior leaf spring, BlueRocker, and no-brace conditions with respect to any other functional measure. Thirteen patients initially considered amputation, but after completion of the clinical pathway, eight desired limb salvage, two were undecided, and three still desired amputation.Conclusions:
Use of the IDEO significantly improves performance on validated tests of agility, power, and speed. The majority of subjects initially considering amputation favored limb salvage after this noninvasive intervention.Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.