Evidence supports peroneal nerve functional electrical stimulation (FES) as an effective alternative to ankle foot orthoses (AFO) for treatment of foot drop poststroke, but few long-term, randomized controlled comparisons exist. Objective. Compare changes in gait quality and function between FES and AFOs in individuals with foot drop poststroke over a 12-month period. Follow-up analysis of an unblinded randomized controlled trial (ClinicalTrials.gov #NCT01087957) conducted at 30 rehabilitation centers comparing FES to AFOs over 6 months. Subjects continued to wear their randomized device for another 6 months to final 12-month assessments. Subjects used study devices for all home and community ambulation. Multiply imputed intention-to-treat analyses were utilized; primary endpoints were tested for noninferiority and secondary endpoints for superiority. Primary endpoints: 10 Meter Walk Test (10MWT) and device-related serious adverse event rate. Secondary endpoints: 6-Minute Walk Test (6MWT), GaitRite Functional Ambulation Profile, and Modified Emory Functional Ambulation Profile (mEFAP). A total of 495 subjects were randomized, and 384 completed the 12-month follow-up. FES proved noninferior to AFOs for all primary endpoints. Both FES and AFO groups showed statistically and clinically significant improvement for 10MWT compared with initial measurement. No statistically significant between-group differences were found for primary or secondary endpoints. The FES group demonstrated statistically significant improvements for 6MWT and mEFAP Stair-time subscore.
At 12 months, both FES and AFOs continue to demonstrate equivalent gains in gait speed. Results suggest that long-term FES use may lead to additional improvements in walking endurance and functional ambulation; further research is needed to confirm these findings.