A gait lab uses special motion-capture cameras (the same type of cameras used for making animated movies and computer games) to track a patient’s movement. In the lab, reflective markers are placed all over the patient’s body. The cameras emit light, and when that light is reflected via the reflective markers, the camera follows its movement, thereby recording the joint motion tracking the patient’s movement. In addition to the cameras, the patient also walks on sensitive plates that provide further information. The innovative technology is primarily used for patients with neuromuscular disorders (like cerebral palsy) to analyse their walking and to help determine the ideal treatment for the patient.
Dr Tim Nunn, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at CURE Ethiopia, said: “Since the gait lab opened, we have been able to assess over 40 patients for severe cerebral palsy conditions. Many of these patients have been discussed with our collaborating team at the Gait Laboratory in Oxford. It has helped us to accurately plan the optimal surgery to achieve the greatest benefit to each patient.”
The gait lab equipment was donated to CURE Ethiopia by three different companies (VICON, AMTI, and NOVEL) coordinated by the ROAM team based at Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics and Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences at the University of Oxford. Mr. Tim Theologis, a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon and specialist in cerebral palsy from Oxford, has been integral to the project. Dr. Julie Stebbins, an international authority on gait analysis, came to install the equipment and train doctors and physicians in 2019. Dr. Stebbins, who completed her doctorate in bioengineering and biomedical engineering, works in Oxford’s Gait Laboratory at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Stebbins said: “I do the clinical part of the research. We mostly see children who have problems walking, and we measure their gait with the cameras to help find treatment options for them.”
The Clinical Movement Analysis Society of UK and Ireland recently awarded funding towards this health partnership and Dr Julie Stebbins will visit CURE Ethiopia Children’s Hospital to continue with training and help set up a joint research program.