By Will Graybeal, CP/LPO
Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. A majority of the survivors are left debilitated in one way or another. Our medical technology today is so great that not only surviving a stroke but also returning to life as usual is very possible. In the realm of orthotics, (externally bracing or supporting the body) Bristol Orthotics and Prosthetics sees many new patients each week recovering from a stroke and we are here to help with this process.
Most of the patients we see as a result of a stroke suffer from a gait abnormality. Either the foot and ankle do not work properly or the entire leg is left paralyzed. As orthotists, we work with the referring physician, usually a primary care physician or neurologist, and the physical therapy and occupational therapy team to help restore normal function to the affected limb. Since walking is crucial to living an independent life it is important to assemble this team as quickly as possible.
Once the team of professionals is gathered together, a plan is developed to see what therapy, medicines and orthotic device is needed for a full recovery. We observe the person walk or try to walk and then build the appropriate device to assist him or her. In the case of a lower limb, a brace, or orthosis, is fit onto the patient. This is done either by taking a measurement or a mold of the limb in order to custom fabricate a device.
Orthotists live in a world of acronyms so many of our devices are just named according to the parts of the body it helps. If an ankle and foot do not function properly and a person drags his or her toe, we fabricate an AFO or Ankle Foot Orthosis, which helps the ankle hold the toes upright and a normal stride is achieved. If the knee is involved, then we just add the letter K to it and build a KAFO or Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis.
Having seen so many patients recover from a stroke and live fairly normal lives after such a major medical issue is very rewarding. At Bristol Orthotics and Prosthetics we work with patients from day one and follow them for the rest of their lives as they recover and their needs change through time. A brace, just like eyeglasses or hearing aids, assists the body to function normally and becomes part of a daily routine.
If you or a loved one suffers from a stroke, be sure to assemble your medical team as soon as possible to get the best results. Make sure to ask questions about life after the stroke. Once recovery is underway each part of this rehabilitation team is very important. Not everyone needs a brace long-
term, as many patients recover completely, but the short-term is very important and the extremities should not be overlooked. Technology has integrated orthotics so well into daily life that you may be surprised to see who wears a device hidden beneath their clothing. Our goal is to help people who have suffered a stroke get back to normal functioning and their orthotic device going unnoticed.
Returning to life as usual after a stroke is possible and Bristol Orthotics & Prosthetics is here to help.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Bristol Orthotics & Prosthetics at 1-800-524-4447 or www.bristoloandp.com.