First UK patient treated with foot drop solution

Stroke survivor given a new lease of life through neurostimulator implant

ActiGait has been used for the first time on a patient in the UK

Fourteen years after suffering a devastating stroke which left her with the debilitating condition, drop foot, a 47-year-old mother from London has become the first person in the UK to be treated with an innovative new neurostimulation device.

Lida Litras was just 33 when she suffered a stroke that left her with the debilitating condition, foot drop

Lida Litras, who was 33 when she had the stroke, has had the ActiGait device surgically implanted into her leg in an effort to improve her mobility and give her more independence.

The innovation, from Ottobock Healthcare, electronically stimulates a patient’s nervous system to combat foot drop, which leaves sufferers unable to activate the muscles in the front of their leg or raise their foot to clear the floor when walking. The condition is caused by multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries as well as stroke and can leave patients with serious mobility problems, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.

ActiGait works by substituting missing central nervous system signals and providing the required nerve trigger to allow proper movement of the foot. It consists of four separate components which are the implant itself, the control unit, the antenna and the heel switch. The heel switch detects when the foot leaves the ground and triggers the unit to stimulate the nerve. This stimulus is transmitted by the antenna to the implanted electrode, which activates the muscles of the lower leg and allows the foot and toes to lift properly during walking, improving walking speed, endurance and stability.

Now I have the confidence to go out, dress the way I want and I feel normal again. I can look forward to the summer and wear my dresses and sandals again

The surgery was carried out at the BMI Blackheath Hospital in London and has given Litras much more confidence and freedom. Speaking about her life before the implant, she said the external stimulators she had worn for the past six years could be easily seen and caused her pain every time they were activated. She told BBH : “I had to wear baggy clothes and wasn’t able to wear dresses or skirts due to the embarrassment of visible wires and electrodes on my leg from my old drop foot solution, which made me feel unfeminine.”

My biggest wish is to help other sufferers get to the stage I’m now at, living an independent life. Now I have the confidence to go out, dress the way I want and I feel normal again

Since the implant, she said walking has become ‘effortless’ and she can now go out with friends and walk for companionship rather than the necessity of having to have someone with her to help her up and down steps and kerbs. She added: “Since the ActiGait implant I have no pain whatsoever. It’s a million times better than anything I’ve had before. My biggest wish is to help other sufferers get to the stage I’m now at, living an independent life. Now I have the confidence to go out, dress the way I want and I feel normal again. I can look forward to the summer and wear my dresses and sandals again.”

Dr Michael Sharr, consultant neurosurgeon at the BMI Blackheath Hospital, said that he hoped more patients in the UK could now benefit from the technology, adding: “A lot of people with this condition yearn to walk more easily and normally.”

Companies