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Vol. 37 No. 3, May/June 2000
Pages 273 - 282

Design enhancement of a solid ankle-foot orthosis: real-time contact pressures evaluation

Michael D. Nowak, ScD; Khamis S. Abu-Hasaballah, PhD; Paul S. Cooper, MD

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030-6144; Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT 06117-1599

Abstract — The purpose of our study was to evaluate all contact pressures between the molded ankle-foot orthosis (MAFO) and the subject during activities of daily living. The MAFOs studied are used clinically to reduce plantar contact pressures associated with foot ulcers in adult neuropathic diabetic subjects, alleviating abnormal pressures by redistributing them to low-pressure plantar regions. While effective, MAFOs are often not used by the subject due to weight and comfort issues. An understanding of the contact pressures between the subject and the orthosis is a first step in improving basic MAFO design. Four nonimpaired, young adult males were tested in this study. A right-side MAFO was custom-molded and fitted for each subject by the same orthotist. Real-time pressures were obtained for the entire contact area using the F-Scan pressure measurement system. The data obtained demonstrated high contact pressures along the metatarsals of the foot, around the heel and ankle, and adjacent to the strap attachment sites. No contact pressures were noted along the posterior calf region during any of the activities performed. These data suggest the calf region would be a suitable site for material removal for weight reduction and increased comfort, especially in warm weather. In addition, these data may be useful to orthotists in improving the basic design and to researchers as a starting point for performing complex finite element analysis on the MAFO.

Key words: ankle, ankle-foot orthosis, F-Scan, MAFO, pressure.

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