The aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness of treatment with hinged ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) during the day vs. during both the day and the night in young ambulant children with spastic diplegia.
In this prospective randomized controlled trial, 112 ambulatory children (70 boys and 42 girls; mean age, 2 yrs 6.93 mos; range, 1 yr 1 mo to 4 yrs 0 mo) with spastic diplegia participated. Forty-eight were classified at level I of the Gross Motor Function Classification System; the remaining 64 were at level II. Using stratified randomization, all children were assigned to either the day AFO-wearing group (n = 56, wearing AFOs all day) or the day-night AFO-wearing group (n = 56, wearing AFOs all day and all night). The two groups underwent conventional rehabilitative treatments five times a week for 8 wks. The primary outcomes measured were passive ankle dorsiflexion angle and sections D and E of the 66-item Gross Motor Function Measure; the root mean square of surface electromyography in the ventral and dorsal lower limb muscles was compared in a subgroup (ten from each group).
Seven children did not complete the full intervention: three in the day AFO-wearing group and four in the day-night AFO-wearing group. Significant baseline-postintervention improvements were found for passive ankle dorsiflexion angle and the 66-item Gross Motor Function Measure in both groups (P < 0.05). On the basis of the score changes, there was no significant difference between these two groups with respect to passive ankle dorsiflexion angle; however, the improvements in the 66-item Gross Motor Function Measure were significantly better in the day AFO-wearing group (P < 0.01). A significant root mean square decrease in gastrocnemius (P < 0.05) was present after the intervention in the day AFO-wearing group, whereas the muscles affected in the day-night AFO-wearing group were the gastrocnemius (P < 0.05) and the tibialis anterior (P < 0.001).
The results demonstrate that the daytime use of AFOs was more effective in improving Gross Motor Function Measure scores than the day-night use. In addition, the prolonged wearing of AFOs may influence muscle activity, which should be monitored in the clinic.