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Evaluating asymmetry in prosthetic gait with step-length asymmetry alone is flawed

Melvyn Roerdink, Sanne Roeles, Sanne C H van der Pas, Otelie Bosboom, Peter J Beek
Gait & Posture 2012, 35 (3): 446-51
22153771
Prosthetic gait is often asymmetric in step length, but the direction of this asymmetry varies inconsistently across amputees. This situation is akin to that seen in stroke patients, where step-length asymmetry has been shown to be the additive result of asymmetries in trunk progression and asymmetries in forward foot placement relative to the trunk. The present study examined the validity of this notion in three trans-tibial and seven trans-femoral amputees wearing a unilateral prosthesis while walking over a walkway at a comfortable and slower-than-comfortable speed. The latter manipulation was added to examine the expectation that the magnitude of the trunk-progression asymmetry - attributable to a weaker propulsion generating capacity on the prosthetic side - would be smaller when walking slower because of the diminished propulsion demands. Step length, forward foot placement relative to the trunk, and trunk progression of prosthetic and non-prosthetic steps, as well as asymmetries therein, were quantified. The direction of step-length and forward foot placement asymmetries varied inconsistently across (but consistently within) participants. As expected, step-length asymmetry depended on the combination of asymmetries in forward foot placement and trunk progression, with a smaller contribution of trunk-progression asymmetry at slow speed. These results extend our previous finding for hemiplegic patients that an analysis of gait asymmetry in terms of step length alone is flawed to prosthetic gait, implying that knowledge of asymmetries in trunk progression and forward foot placement relative to the trunk is required to help elucidate the contribution of underlying impairments (viz. propulsion generating capacity) and adopted compensations on prosthetic gait asymmetry.

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