Wearable technology for rapid stiffness optimisation of ankle-foot-orthoses

A stiffness-adjustable ankle-foot-orthosis for time-efficient human-in-the-loop orthosis selection (ADJUST)

Amsterdam UMC, together with the Delft University of Technology, OIM Noordwijkerhout and Reade center for rehabilitation and rheumatology are developing a novel, untethered wearable ankle-foot-orthosis, which stiffness can be continuously altered in real-time. This allows for rapid human-in-the-loop orthosis selection.

Ankle-foot-orthoses enable people with neuromuscular diseases to prevent falls and to walk more efficiently. As every human moves a bit differently, personalising the stiffness of an ankle-foot-orthosis is needed for an optimal effect. However, currently available ankle-foot-orthoses do not allow to modify their stiffness continuously, which means that for each stiffness setting, outcome data need to be collected separately. This makes the optimisation process very tedious and time-consuming (approximately 8 hours medical consult time per patient in two hospital visits).

This project will develop a wearable ankle-foot-orthosis, containing a dorsal leaf with a slider that is attached to a small actuator (worn on the patient’s back), which will be wireless connected to a laptop (Bluetooth, WIFI) to move the slider along the dorsal leaf, thereby adjusting the orthosis bending stiffness in real-time. With so-called human-in-the-loop optimisation, which uses real-time measurements of human physiological data, it will be possible to adjust the orthosis stiffness in real-time and quickly optimise the effectiveness for the individual user.

Rapid human-in-the-loop orthosis selection with our wearable technology will dramatically shorten the optimisation process (1.5 hours medical consult time instead of 8 hours), thereby saving personal time and health care costs, and it will considerably lower the burden for patients. Furthermore, precisely selecting the individual optimal ankle-foot-orthosis stiffness will lead to a more effective treatment in terms of reducing walking problems and improving daily life functioning, which can benefit the large number of individuals with walking difficulties from chronic neuromuscular diseases.

Every human moves a bit differently, so personalising the stiffness of an ankle-foot-orthosis to the individual user is needed for an optimal effect, but this is a time-consuming process. A newly developed stiffness-adjustable ankle-foot-orthosis allows for rapid optimisation of the orthosis stiffness, which will save personal time and reduce patient burden.
Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
4 - 6
Time period
24 months