GAITRite system assesses walking patterns
As Sebastien Parent relates the story, the other day he tried to walk, but ended up falling down.
The seven-year-old boy, who lives with cerebral palsy, normally walks with the help of a walker or canes, but sometimes attempts a few unaided steps.
“But what happens when you fall?” his father, Jason, prompted.
“I get back up,” Sebastien said.
Given the fact that Sebastien didn't start walking until he was four, he's doing pretty well. A surgery three years ago at the Shriners' Hospital in Montreal loosened his leg muscles so he was able to walk flat-footed instead of on his toes.
For most of his life, Sebastien has also received help with his walking, or “gait,” at Health Sciences North's Children's Treatment Centre.
Thanks to a $34,000 donation from the Health Sciences North Volunteer Association, the children's treatment centre now has a new piece of equipment to assess patients like Sebastien.
The GAITRite system uses a portable 16-foot walking track, containing some 18,400 sensors, to analyze all aspects of how a person walks.
The system is connected to a computer. Patients walk on the track and their gait is measured on such factors as timing, velocity and pressure points of each footprint. Data and images of a patient's gait pattern are recorded and stored.
Clinicians can then analyze the data to develop the most effective treatment options. Over the course of treatment, gait patterns can be recorded and compared to track a patient's progress.
While the equipment is located at the children's treatment centre, it can also be used to the assess the gait of adult patients.
Jason said he's glad his son has access to the technology.
“It's such a good tool for seeing his steps and things they can do to help him along his path.”
Cliff Richardson, president of Health Sciences North's volunteer association, said his organization raised the funds through the hospital's gift shop, which it runs.
The volunteer association has a “long and rich history” of supporting pediatrics, he said. When children's treatment centre staff were asked what they needed, Richardson said the GAITRite system was at the top of their wish list.
Mary Sabo, a physiotherapist at the centre, said she's happy to no longer have to be “eyeballing it.”
The GAITRite system gives much more information, Sabo said.
“It's quite precise,” she said. “Other centres have this (system) as well, so when we're sending a child down for a consult, we'll be able to say 'This is what they achieved. What are you seeing?'”
And because GAITRite is just a sensor mat connected to a computer, when children first see it, they are not seeing a big scary piece of equipment, Sabo said.
That means they're displaying their normal walking pattern instead of walking “cautiously” because they're nervous, she said.
The sensor mat can also be easily rolled up and stored when not in use, which is important because the children's treatment centre doesn't currently have a room dedicated to the equipment, Sabo said.
“This (equipment) will allow kids to maximize their potential,” she said. “That's all we can hope for.”
Dr. Sean Murray, a pediatrician and the medical director of the hospital's child and family program, said in a press release GAITRite is a “tremendous tool.”
“Having this kind of innovative technology at our disposal is a real boost for both patient care and the development of our Pediatric Centre of Excellence.”