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Analysis of Amputee Gait
Norman Berger, M.S.
*Much of the material in this chapter is taken from the manual Lower-Limb Prosthetics, 1990 Revision, Prosthetics and Orthotics, New York University Post-Graduate Medical School. Permission to reprint is gratefully acknowledged. With equipment such as force plates, electrogoniome-ters, and electromyographs, a number of research studies have presented objective, quantified analyses of amputee gait. Clinicians, however, tend to rely on observational gait analysis to provide information about prosthetic fit, alignment, and function for the individual patient. This simpler, more immediately available procedure requires only the eye, the brain, and sufficient expertise to produce clinically useful insights and understanding. Although the future may see sophisticated measurement equipment efficient and inexpensive enough to be used routinely in daily treatment programs, observational gait analysis remains the procedure of choice for the present and is therefore the focus of this chapter. Basically, observational gait analysis involves the identification of gait deviations and determination of the causes associated with each deviation. With this accomplished, the treatment team can then plan and recommend corrective actions to improve the situation. This process works well so long as the clinic team understands normal gait, biomechanics, and prosthetic fit and alignment. The component parts of the gait analysis procedure are as follows: 1. Observation.-It is essential to observe from at least two vantage points. Sagittal-plane motions are best seen from the side, while frontal-plane motions are best seen from the front or rear. 2. Identification of gait deviations.-The phrase "gait deviation" is defined as any gait characteristic that differs from the normal pattern. While all our detailed knowledge of normal locomotion will be useful, keep in mind that the single most outstanding characteristic of the normal pattern is symmetry. Thus, for the unilateral amputee deviations are often identified by observing asymmetry, that is, differences in the patterns of the prosthetic and normal sides. 3. Determination of causes.-The obvious place to look is at the prosthesis, and it is certainly true that there are many prosthetic causes for gait deviations. However, it is equally true that there are many non-prosthetic causes. A particular patient may have restricted range of motion at one or more joints, muscular weakness, concomitant medical conditions, excessive fear, or old habit patterns, any of which may cause deviant gait. Analyze the prosthesis, but do not ignore the patient.
ANALYSIS OF TRANSTIBIAL (BELOW-KNEE) AMPUTEE GAIT
A number of important deviations that may appear in the gait of transtibial amputees are discussed below. To assist in observing these sometimes subtle characteristics and in understanding their causes, the phase of the walking cycle in which each deviation occurs is identified. I. Between heel strike and midstance A. Excessive k nee flexion During normal gait the knee is approximately in complete extension at heel strike. Immediately thereafter, the knee begins to flex and continues to do so until just after the sole of the shoe is flat on the ground. At normal walking speeds (100 to 120 steps per minute), the average range of knee flexion after heel strike is from 15 to 20 degrees. The transtibial amputee may exceed this range of knee flexion on the amputated side for any of the following reasons:
Excessively soft heel cushion or plantar-flexion bumper In the case of a solid-ankle. When the quadriceps muscle contracts. If the prosthetic foot is set in too much dorsiflexion or the socket displays more than the usual 5 degrees of anterior tilt. (2) digging the heel into the ground by means of increased hip extensor activity. To avoid this pain the amputee may walk so that the forces acting on the knee tend to extend rather than to flex that joint. the amputee's knee may have to flex through more than the normal range to allow the sole of the foot to reach the floor. posterior displacement of the socket decreases the distance between the lines of action of the force transmitted through the socket (A) and the reaction force from the floor (B). If the socket is placed so far posteriorly that the line of force transmission through the socket falls posterior to the floor reaction. Posterior displacement of the sock et over the foot As illustrated in Fig 14-2. foot contact with the floor after heel strike is the result of ankle plantar flexion and knee flexion. This can be accomplished by (1) shortening the prosthetic step. Absent or insufficient k nee flexion The transtibial amputee may walk with absent or insufficient knee flexion on the amputated side for one or more of the following reasons: 1. pressure between the anterodistal surface of the tibia and the socket is increased considerably. 4. With a single-axis ankle. Excessively stiff heel cushion or plantar-flexion bumper If plantar flexion of the foot is restricted by an overly stiff heel cushion or plantar-flexion bumper. Excessive anterior displacement of the sock et over the foot As illustrated in Fig 14-1. 2. If this anterior convexity is excessive. Flexion contracture or posterior misplacement of the suspension tabs The knee cuff used to suspend the prosthesis is attached to the socket posterior to the axis of motion of the knee joint. These situations are comparable to a flexion contracture in which tight posterior tissues do not permit full knee extension. Anterodistal discomfort Supporting body weight with the knee in a flexed attitude is possible only if the knee extensors act with sufficient force to restrain the flexion moment. contact of the sole of the foot with the floor coincides approximately with the end of knee flexion and the beginning of knee extension. foot flat will occur prematurely and prevent normal knee flexion after heel strike. the suspension tabs will tighten to such an extent as to prevent the knee joint from reaching full extension. thus decreasing the tendency of the force couple to rotate the prosthesis in a flexion direction. the knee will be forced toward hyperextension rather than flexion. an overly stiff cushion or bumper will not absorb the impact of the heel striking the floor.1. The supracondylar/suprapatellarsuspended prosthesis relies on a carefully molded convexity above the patella to ensure adequate suspension. cushion-heel (SACH) foot with an excessively soft heel cushion. 4. This location causes the suspension tabs to tighten as the knee joint extends and to loosen as the knee flexes. 3. If the prosthetic foot is in an attitude of plantar flexion. 2. placing the socket forward relative to the prosthetic foot increases the distance between the lines of action of the force transmitted through the socket (A) and the reaction force from the floor (B). Also. there will be a momentary delay between heel strike and the initiation of knee flexion.. the prosthesis will tend to rotate backward. the knee joint will be restricted in extension. stump discomfort may occur at heel strike. The effect of this force couple will be somewhat reduced if the heel cushion or bumper is soft enough to absorb the impact of the heel striking the floor. The force couple tending to cause rotation of the prosthesis in a flexion direction thus increases as the socket is moved farther anteriorly. Excessive dorsiflexion of the foot or excessive anterior tilt of the sock et Normally. If the attachment points are unduly posterior. additional knee flexion is required to allow the foot to reach the floor after heel strike. 3. B. Consequently. This abrupt contact of the foot with the floor will tend to decrease the range of knee flexion. an excessively soft heel bumper will allow the prosthetic foot to plantar-flex too rapidly and thus slap the floor. (3) adopting . The knee will begin to flex only after the heel cushion has been fully compressed. Excessive plantar flexion of the foot In normal walking. that is. thus tending to produce abrupt and excessive knee flexion..
the sound limb is swinging. or (4) some combination of these. Between midstance and toe-off A. knee motion reverses.a forward lurch of the head and the shoulder. These gait maneuvers tend to force the knee into extension and thereby lessen or eliminate the need for quadriceps activity. the distal end of the prosthesis shifts medially. In almost all instances. Excessive lateral thrust may be caused by such factors as the following: 1. and the patient's weight tends to be borne on the lateral border of the foot. Soft dorsiflexion bumper These conditions also minimize the distance that the body weight must move forward before anterior support is lost. This knee flexion coincides with the passing of the center of gravity over the metatarsophalangeal joints. this lateral thrust can be minimized or eliminated by "out-setting" the prosthetic foot slightly. The shorter this distance. a force couple is created that tends to rotate the socket around the stump. Excessive anterior displacement of the sock et over the foot The farther forward the socket is placed. Habit Amputees who have established a pattern of walking with the knee held in extension after heel strike may continue to walk in the same manner when they are making the transition to a patellar tendon-bearing prosthesis. When this occurs. A slight amount of this lateral thrust is fairly common. III. the amputee may compensate in much the same way as he would if there were anterodistal tibial discomfort. Posterior displacement of the toe-break or the k eel 3. At midstance A.. The distance that the center of gravity must move forward to pass over these prosthetic equivalents of the metatarsophalangeal joints is thus minimized and allows knee flexion to occur too early. A brief period of instruction with adequate follow-up may establish a less deviant walking pattern. but if it is excessive. and the amputee might complain of a "walking-uphill" sensation since his center of gravity would be carried up and over the extended knee. 6. Excessive medial placement of the prosthetic foot At midstance. Under such circumstances. and flexion begins. 5. If the body weight is carried over these joints too soon. This excessive anterior support can be brought about by the following: . the medial socket brim presses against the femoral condyle while the lateral part of the brim tends to gap. the knee joint would remain in extension during the latter part of the stance phase. the knee is extending. Abducted sock et If a socket that has been set in excessive abduction (brim tilted medially. 2. Early k nee flexion (drop-off) Just prior to heel-off during normal gait. simulating genu valgum) is placed on the vertically positioned residual limb. B. If this supporting foot is too far medial to the line of action of forces transmitted through the socket. the closer is the line of action of forces transmitted through the socket to the end of the keel in a SACH foot or to the toe-break in a wood foot. the earlier and more abrupt will be the knee flexion. in turn. II. the amputee may complain of uncomfortable pressure on the medioproximal aspect of his knee. the resulting lack of anterior support would allow premature knee flexion or drop-off. Delayed k nee flexion The reverse of the situation described above occurs if the body weight must be carried forward an unusually long distance before anterior support is lost. At heel-off or immediately thereafter. and damage to the skin and to the knee ligaments may result. Weak ness of the quadriceps muscle If the quadriceps is not strong enough to control the knee at heel strike. 2. so all of the body weight is supported by the prosthetic foot on the floor. Possible causes for this lack of anterior support are as follows: 1. This. as illustrated in Fig 14-3. Excessive lateral thrust of the prosthesis Lateral thrust derives from the tendency of the prosthesis to rotate around the amputated limb. Excessive dorsiflexion of the foot or excessive anterior tilt of the sock et 4. increases the lateral thrust of the socket brim.
However. the incidence is small. 4. ANALYSIS OF TRANSFEMORAL (ABOVE-KNEE) AMPUTEE GAIT Eleven common transfemoral deviations and their usual causes are presented. 2.1. 3. Lateral trunk bending. Excessive posterior displacement of the sock et over the foot Anterior displacement of the toe-break or the k eel Excessive plantar flexion of the foot or excessive posterior tilt of the sock et Hard dorsiflexion bumper Some of the gait deviations discussed below in relation to the transfemoral amputee may also be noted in the transtibial patient. LATERAL TRUNK BENDING Description: The amputee leans toward the amputated side when the prosthesis is in stance phase (Fig 14-4. with the first 6 deviations best viewed from the rear or the front and the remaining 5 best seen from the side. and no separate discussion is warranted. Fig 14-4. The sequence of presentation is based on the preferred vantage point for observation.). .
6. How to observe: From behind the patient. WIDE WALKING BASE (ABDUCTED GAIT) Description: Throughout the gait cycle. Short prosthesis. particularly on the lateral distal aspect of the femur. To check this tendency. There is exaggerated displacement of the pelvis and trunk (Fig 14-5. the amputee leans toward the prosthesis. By shifting the center of gravity toward the prosthesis. 2. The resulting tendency of the pelvis to drop on the sound side is counteracted by lateral trunk bending. lateral bending counteracts the tendency toward pelvic drop on the sound side. By bending to the prosthetic side. the width of the walking base is significantly greater than the normal range of 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in. Pain or discomfort. . Insufficient support by the lateral socket wall. the amputee relieves pressure on the lateral aspect. 5.). This is usually present when an amputee walks with an abducted gait. Causes: 1. Most of the causes of abducted gait can be responsible for lateral bending. If the lateral wall does not block lateral movement of the femur.When to observe: From just after heel strike to mid-stance. This alignment fault reduces the effectiveness of the hip abductors in stabilizing the pelvis.). Abducted socket. Weak hip abductors. 3. Lateral trunk bending. the pelvis will tend to drop on the sound side when the prosthesis is in stance phase. 4.
The amputee compensates by widening his walking base. The amputee tries to gain relief by abducting his prosthesis. 6. When to observe: During the period of double support. Excessive length makes it difficult to place the limb directly under the hip during stance and to clear the floor during swing. 3.Fig 14-5. 2. Causes: 1. 4. Contracted hip abductors. . Mechanical hip joint set so that the socket is abducted. Feeling of insecurity. How to observe: From behind the patient. Pain or discomfort in the crotch area. 5. Prosthesis too long. adductor roll. Widening the base helps to solve these problems. w ith exaggerated displacem ent of the pelvis and trunk. Shank aligned in the valgus position with respect to the thigh section. Width of w alking gait is significantly greater than norm al. thus moving the medial part of the brim away from the painful area. The discomfort may be due to such factors as skin infection. or pressure from the medial socket brim.
Fig 14-6. How to observe: From behind the patient. The ischial tuberosity is above its proper location. Insufficient flexion of the knee because of insecurity or fear. Too small a socket. Circum duction: prosthesis sw ings in laterally curved line. thus forcing the amputee to swing it to the side to clear the ground. 4. Inadequate suspension allowing the prosthesis to drop (piston action).CIRCUMDUCTION Description: The prosthesis follows a laterally curved line as it swings (Fig 14-6. 2. or a tight extension aid preventing the knee from flexing. Foot set in excessive plantar flexion. Causes: The basic cause of this deviation is a prosthesis that is too long. The following are among the factors tending to produce excessive length: 1. excessive friction. 3. Manual knee lock. . 5.). When to observe: Throughout swing phase.
The . Insufficient friction in the prosthetic knee. Causes: 1. Fig 14-7. and the prosthetic foot would fail to clear the ground unless the amputee gained additional time and clearance by vaulting. Excessive length of the prosthesis. Vaulting: early and excessive plantar flexion of sound foot raises entire body.). maximum elevation of the body occurs when the supporting limb is in the middle of stance phase and the other limb swings alongside it. When there is insufficient friction.VAULTING Description: The amputee raises his entire body by early and excessive plantar flexion of the sound foot (Fig 14-7. Because of this time lag. The amputee vaults to gain additional clearance so that the prosthetic foot will clear the ground as it swings through. and the shank takes a longer time to swing forward. In the normal pattern. How to observe: From behind or from the side of patient. 2. heel rise is excessive. the body is no longer at maximum elevation as the prosthetic foot is at its lowest point in swinging through. When to observe: During swing phase of the prosthesis.
lateral w hip. Too small a socket. SWING-PHASE WHIPS Description: Medial whip-At toe-off the heel moves medially (Fig 14-8.following are among the factors that may produce excessive length: A. Fig 14-8. C. Inadequate suspension allowing the prosthesis to slip off the stump (piston action). or too tight an extension aid. Left. . B. Lateral whip-At toe-off the heel moves laterally (Fig 14-8. excessive friction. The ischial tuberosity is above its proper location. D.). Foot set in excessive plantar flexion.). Manual knee lock. Insufficient flexion of the knee because of insecurity or fear. E. Right. m edial w hip.
How to observe: From behind the patient. Fig 14-9. B. Foot rotation at heel strike.). Improper alignment of the knee bolt in the transverse plane. A socket that is too tight or improperly contoured to accommodate muscles.When to observe: At and just after toe-off. . Causes: 1. With a suction socket and no auxiliary suspension. Pressure from contracting muscle bellies causes the prosthesis to rotate around its long axis. Weak and flabby musculature that rotates freely around the femur. FOOT ROTATION AT HEEL STRIKE Description: As the heel contacts the ground. the foot rotates laterally. sometimes with a vibratory motion (Fig 14-9. 2. whips may be seen because of the following: A.
Fig 14-10. FOOT SLAP Description: The foot plantar-flexes too rapidly and strikes the floor with a slap (Fig 14-10. .When to observe: At heel strike.). How to observe: From the side. Cause: The plantar-flexion bumper is too soft and does not offer enough resistance to foot motion as weight is transferred to the prosthesis. Foot slap. How to observe: From in front of the patient. Listen for slap. Cause: Too hard a heel cushion or plantar-flexion bumper. When to observe: Just after heel strike.
Fig 14-11.). How to observe: From the side. 3. Causes: Excessive heel rise results when the following are present: 1. that is. When to observe: During first part of swing phase. the reverse may also be seen. Insufficient tension or absence of an extension aid. Insufficient heel rise results when the following are present: . 2. However. Insufficient friction at the prosthetic knee. Forceful hip flexion to ensure that the prosthetic knee will be extended fully at heel strike. the prosthetic heel rises less than the sound heel (Fig 14-11. Uneven heel rise.UNEVEN HEEL RISE Description: Usually the prosthetic heel rises higher than the sound heel.
Too tight an extension aid. Term inal im pact. . When to observe: At the end of swing phase. Manual knee lock. The amputee walks with little or no knee flexion. Too tight an extension aid. TERMINAL IMPACT Description: The prosthetic shank comes to a sudden stop with a visible and possibly audible impact as the knee reaches full extension (Fig 14-12. Fig 14-12. 2. Excessive friction at the prosthetic knee. Insufficient friction at the prosthetic knee. Listen for the impact. 4. Causes: 1.). 2. Fear and insecurity. 3.1. How to observe: From the side.
. and the trunk may lean posteriorly (Fig 14-13. Insufficient friction at the prosthetic knee or too loose an extension aid.) taken with the prosthesis differs from the length of the step taken with the sound leg.). The pendular swing of the shank produces a prosthetic step length that is longer than the step length on the sound side. The total length of the stride taken with each foot will be the same ("stride" signifies the distance between successive positions of the same foot. Causes: 1. This maneuver snaps the shank forward into full extension. When to observe: During successive periods of double support. 4. Hip flexion contracture or insufficient socket flexion. Any restriction of the hip extension range must be reflected by a shorter step length on the sound side. 3.3. UNEVEN STEP LENGTH Description: The length of the step [*The term step refers to the distance between successive positions of the sound foot and prosthetic foot. Pain or insecurity causing the amputee to transfer his weight quickly from the prosthesis to his sound leg. How to observe: From the side. To do this he takes a short. EXAGGERATED LORDOSIS Description: The lumbar lordosis is exaggerated when the prosthesis is in stance phase. 2. Absent or worn resilient extension bumper in the knee unit. rapid step with his sound foot. The amputee's fear of buckling causing him to extend the hip abruptly as the knee approaches full extension.
5. the resulting forward pelvic tilt and compensatory backward trunk bending cause increased lordosis. Weak hip extensors. Insufficient socket flexion. Exaggerated lordosis. the amputee may roll his pelvis forward to assist the weak extensors to control knee stability. The abdominal muscles restrain the tendency of the pelvis to tilt forward. Insufficient support from the anterior socket brim. some of this restraint is lost. In addition. 4. If the abdominal muscles are weak. 3.Fig 14-13. . Weak abdominal muscles. How to observe: From the side. When this restraining force is lost. Hip flexion contracture. and the amputee will show increased lordosis. The extensors help to restrain the tendency of the pelvis to tilt forward. When to observe: Throughout stance phase. 2. The pelvis tends to tilt downward and forward because the center of gravity is anterior to the support point (a theoretical point around which the supporting forces are balanced). A flexion contracture aggravates the tendency of the pelvis to tilt anteriorly because the shortened hip flexor muscles exert a downward and forward pull on the pelvis when the femur is at the limit of its extension range. Causes: 1.
Excessive anterior displacem ent of the socket over the foot. . Fig 14-2. Posterior displacem ent of the socket over the foot.Fig 14-1.
Prosthetic.Fig 14-3. Excessive m edial placem ent of the prosthetic foot. and Rehabilitation Principles Normal Version . Chapter 14 .Atlas of Limb Prosthetics: Surgical.
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