A step in the right direction | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - November 2005

A step in the right direction

Cerebral palsy affects around 1 in every 500 children, about 90% of whom develop foot deformities that can affect walking, and may even require surgery.

^The anatomy of the human foot is amazingly complex and our understanding of how it works, particularly during walking, is limited.^ Because of this, the treatment of foot deformity in cerebral palsy has been mainly by trial and error.

Thanks to a grant of more than £131,000, a research team based at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre have been using a sophisticated new ‘motion analysis system’, which uses twelve infrared cameras to measure and analyse movement patterns within the foot and pressure during walking. Children with cerebral palsy were assessed before and after surgical correction of the deformity. The measurements were compared with those from healthy children, and also with children suffering cerebral palsy who did not receive surgical treatment.

The researchers found that the children who received surgical treatment of the foot showed improvement in patterns of movement at the foot and ankle, as they’d expected. Interestingly, motion at the knee and hip also improved, even though these joints were not operated on. ^The new system has improved our understanding of the problems leading to foot abnormalities and deformity in cerebral palsy, and the implications of these deformities on other joints.^

These findings provide vital information about the outcome and limitations of treatment so that doctors can better inform patients. In the future, the system should be helpful in guiding and optimising the treatment of foot deformity.

Mr Theologis, who headed the research, told Touching Lives “This project has increased our understanding and confidence in treating foot deformity in children with cerebral palsy. In future this will lead to major improvements in the surgical techniques we are using in this group of patients.”

Touching Lives would also like to congratulate and thank Mr Theologis for completing our Action 100 bike ride this summer.

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