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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005, 01:54 GMT
Walking aid for stroke patients
The rear-support walking frame
It is hoped people with a range of conditions could benefit
UK researchers are developing a walking frame which could make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke.

Existing frames require the person to hold them, and lift them as they move.

But many stroke patients cannot use these, and often need two people to support them as they move.

The frame being developed in Oswestry supports people from behind, and is "hands-free", a benefit for those who have lost the full use of their arms.

Regaining independence is a very important step in the recovery of stroke
Andrea Lane, Stroke Association

Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability in England with around 300,000 people living with moderate to serve disabilities.

The frame was initially developed by Professor John Patrick's team at the Orthotic Research and Locomotor Assessment Unit, at Oswestry Hospital, for patients with cerebral palsy.

Their gait - the way someone walks - is often affected, so the frame was used to provide support to help them move more easily.

The frame consists of a harness, which supports the person's torso, and has wheels at its rear.


The idea to adapt the frame for people who have had strokes came from Dr Gillian Pearce, a former hospital doctor whose family experience of stroke led her to want to improve the walking aids available.

The team also hope to adapt the frame so it can be used to help people with a variety of neuromuscular conditions.

That means features such as the harness will have to be adapted so it can give as much, or as little support as needed.

Some patients may simply need the security of the frame around them as they work to improve their gait.

It is also hoped that using the frame would mean patients would need only one person, such as a physiotherapist, to help them rather than the minimum of two they would usually need to lift and support them.


Dr Pearce, who is also a senior lecturer in clinical physiology and anatomy at Wolverhampton University, said: "This is a really important project that will help many victims of debilitating illnesses to regain their independence and improve their quality of life.

"So far, it has been confined to use in the hospital because it is quite large and bulky."

But she added: "We believe the frame could be used in the home, and could be something people could take with them in the care, if we can make it easier to assemble and take apart."

The team hopes to have a prototype of the frame ready for testing by stroke patients in the New Year.

Andrea Lane, a spokeswoman for the Stroke Association, said: "Regaining independence is a very important step in the recovery of stroke and a number of stroke survivors will benefit from this equipment.

"However, disability as a result of a stroke manifests itself in many ways and we need more initiatives like this to help all stroke survivors make a good recovery."

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