Bionic Man


The fictional 1970’s character Steve Austin, was the six million dollar man.  He was an astronaut severely injured in a crash that left him needing to replace several limbs with “bionic” implants. I could not help but think of this television series when my client came to visit Aim2Walk.

My client had a stroke in 2009 and suffered from foot drop. Although he has lived in Canada for over 20 years now, he is originally from Germany and was very happy to hear about a procedure that was being offered in his home country to help with his foot drop. ActiGait by Otto Bock is an implantable Drop Foot Stimulator. You may have heard about an exterior stimulation unit called Bioness which assists in helping with foot drop. The ActiGait is basically like the Bioness, however it is literally surgically implanted under the skin.

When this client first came to the clinic he was on a mission. He needed to be able to get his ankle to 90 degrees in order to be eligible for the procedure. Due to a childhood injury, he had extreme scar tissue stopping the extension of his achilles tendon. The mission involved breaking down that scar tissue and flexing his ankle to 90 degrees. He worked like a champ and allowed me to literally tear apart the scar tissue and stretch with all my might.  After four treatments of intensive sweat-dripping work (I’m talking about myself for the sweating) he was cleared by the specialist and ready to travel to Germany. The surgery was a few hours long and he was up and out of the hospital the same day. He seemed to have no pain following the procedure apart from the irritation of the two small incisions on his leg.


A diagram of where both incisions are on the leg and the implanted stimulator.

How does the device work?

With a sticker like clip on the lateral side of the thigh, the client clips an exterior piece to sit directly above the interior piece that is inside the leg. This piece is hooked to the devices handheld control centre which can also be clipped onto the pants in order to be a hands-free device.  A small sensor is placed under the heel inside the sock and it tells the sensor weather your heel is on the ground or in the air. Once your heel leaves the ground it will send a signal to the device to stimulate the muscle to cause is to contract and allowing the foot to flex.

The stimulation intensity is set with the doctor following the procedure according to the clients’ needs and can also be adjusted with the hand held device. Our client was eager to show off his new and improved walking and made a visit to the clinic. Here is a video so you can see for yourself how much of a difference the procedure has helped him. With this sort of technology, I can only imagine what other miracles will begin to develop for people with disabilities.

Michelle Wolfe, RMT

Past Blog Posts for Technology Finds:

 Tour De Pants (FES BIKE) 

Wedding Day Stimulator (Bioness)

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Bionic Musings. | Rose B Fischer

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