Review| Volume 17, ISSUE 5, P325-344, June 2002

Energy storage and return prostheses: does patient perception correlate with biomechanical analysis?


      The development and prescription of energy storage and return prosthetic feet in favor of conventional feet is largely based upon prosthetist and amputee experience. Regretfully, the comparative biomechanical analysis of energy storage and return and conventional prosthetic feet is rarely a motivation to either the technical development or clinical prescription of such devices. The development and prescription of prosthetic feet without supportive scientific evidence is likely due to the conflicting or non-significant results often presented in the scientific literature. Despite the sizeable history of comparative prosthetic literature and continued analysis of prosthetic components, the link between clinical experience and scientific evidence remains largely unexplored.
      A review of the comparative analysis literature evaluating energy storage and return and conventional prosthetic feet is presented to illustrate consistencies between the perceptive assessments and the objective biomechanical data. Results suggest that while experimental methodologies may limit the statistical significance of objective gait analysis results, consistent trends in temporal, kinetic, and kinematic parameters correlate well with perceptive impressions of these feet. These correlations provide insight to subtle changes in gait parameters that are deemed neither clinically nor statistically significant, yet are perceived by amputees to affect their preference for and performance of prosthetic feet during locomotion.
      Acknowledging and targeting areas of perceptive significance will help researchers develop more structured protocols for energy storage and return prosthesis evaluation as well as provide clinicians with information needed to enhance the appropriateness of their clinical recommendations. Expanding test environments to measure activities of perceived improvement such as high-velocity motions, stair ascent/descent, and uneven ground locomotion will provide a more appropriate assessment of the conditions for which energy storage and return prosthetic feet were designed. Concentrating research to specific test populations by age or amputation etiologies can overcome statistical limitations imposed by small study samples. Finally, directing research toward the areas of gait adaptation, heel performance, and the temporal release of energy in energy storage and return feet may reinforce the selection and utilization of advanced prosthetic components. These enhancements to current biomechanical analyses may serve to reduce the boundaries of perceptive significance and provide clinicians, designers, and researchers with the supportive data needed to prescribe, design, and evaluate energy storage and return prosthetic feet.


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