Device aids ability to walk for those with foot drop

Condition affects people with spinal cord, brain injuries

KENDALL, Fla. - Putting one foot in front of the other is all it takes to walk, but for 28 year old Brian Riscigno, completing each step is nothing short of a miracle.

In 2008, Riscigno suffered an unexplained stroke that left him unable to move his right side.

"I couldn't talk, I couldn't walk," he said.

Intense therapy helped Riscigno learn to speak again but walking was harder to master.

"I couldn't lift my right foot when I took a step so it dragged and walking was very slow, very difficult," he said.

Then his therapist showed him a device called the Bioness L300.

"The equipment works really nicely for people who've had a dysfunction that may affect the central nervous system.  That could be the brain itself or the spinal cord," said Baptist Hospital physical therapist Flavio Leite.

Foot drop is the result of a disconnect between the brain and the muscles of the foot.

The device uses radio signals transmitted from an electrode placed just below the knee to a switch inside the shoe.

"So when you put your foot up, that sends a signal to the musculature to clear your foot off the floor and when you step down and you put your weight on that foot the current is shut off so you relax until the next time you take the next step," said Leite.

Along with regular therapy sessions, Riscigno is now 2 miles around his neighborhood every day and said he finally feels like his life is moving forward.

"With the Bioness, I have actually regained a little bit of movement in my ankle which is maybe just the first step of regaining more movement," he said. "Its a tough, ongoing journey but I'm handling it as well as I can."

Along with relieving foot drop, the device can help prevent muscle atrophy and increase blood flow to the affected area.

People with pacemakers or any type of electrical implant are not candidates for the device.

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