What is Gait Analysis?
Gait refers to the pattern of walking. Gait analysis, also known as motion analysis, is a test to analyze how a patient walks and identify any unusual walking pattern. A proper gait is a result of correct coordination of the brain, muscles, and nerves all the time. Any disruption in this coordination may result in an abnormal walking pattern, indicating an underlying condition such as cerebral palsy, injury, or a disorder. A gait analysis test helps your physician discover the exact problem and determine the best course of treatment. A gait analysis involves various elements that provide a comprehensive picture of several factors contributing to a patient’s gait disorder.
Indications for Gait Analysis
Gait analysis testing is indicated to evaluate and monitor children with a variety of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions such as:
- Spina bifida
- Cerebral palsy
- Balance disorders
- Spinal cord or brain injury
- Joint and hip problems
- Sports-associated injuries
- Prosthetic device or brace modifications
- Leg-length discrepancies
- Foot abnormalities and malalignment of bones
Preparation for Gait Analysis
Your child should wear comfortable clothing such as shorts to facilitate free movement of the limbs. This also makes it easier for your physician to visualize their lower body in motion. As part of the preparation you are advised to bring:
- Loose-fitting clothes such as shorts and a tank top
- Walking devices and/or splints, if applicable
- Walking shoes with or without braces
- Familiar books or toys, optional
- A duly filled questionnaire of functional assessment, pediatric outcomes, and consent
What Happens During Gait Analysis
Gait analysis is conducted by a team of experts in a gait lab that is enabled with motion capture, advanced video, and other monitoring equipment. The analysis usually takes about 3 hours and involves the following elements:
- Physical Examination: The physical exam is performed by a physical therapist to ascertain the tone, range of motion, degree of strength, and selective motor control in the lower limbs of the patient.
- Video Documentation: This involves videotaping while the patient is walking. Also, a video of the standing posture of the patient and the footwear will be taken to evaluate wear patterns.
- 3-D Gait Kinematics and Kinetics: Kinematics is the study of joint motion. Kinetics implies forces that act on the joints. This test offers a 3-D image of body movement while walking and involves taping reflective markers on the trunk, pelvis, and legs. Digital cameras capture the movements of the markers to calculate joint movement at the legs, pelvis, and trunk. Input from the forces that pass through the joints and kinetics additionally divulge factors contributing to abnormal movement.
- Electromyography (EMG): The EMG study offers information on functioning of each muscle and how it contributes to gait abnormality. Pressure-sensitive foot switches provides us data on foot contacts while walking and enables this EMG data to be correlated with the swing and stance phases of the gait.
- Energy expenditure: Energy expenditure is the quantity of energy an individual utilizes. People with movement disorders usually utilize more energy during walking than people without movement issues. Energy efficiency of walking is crucial to interpret the severity of the gait problem.
Gait Analysis Report
After completion of the gait analysis, you and your physician will receive a report from the team of specialists who conducted the study. The report will include a copy of the test results and treatment recommendations. The report helps your physician to identify any problems with your child’s movements so they can address the problem.
Gait problems in children may be due to:
- Weak muscles
- Poor range of motion
- Abnormal joint position
Based on this analysis, your physician can determine:
- If the child has neuromuscular or musculoskeletal disorders and the rate of its progress
- If use of insoles or other orthotics/prosthesis could help
- If designing a customized physical therapy regimen could help
- If surgical intervention should be planned
Children with complex gait conditions caused by neurologic disorders such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida may need orthotics or surgical procedures. Physicians need a detailed understanding of the effect of elements such as spasticity and body segment malalignment on a child’s walking capacity to make optimal treatment recommendations. Gait analysis can provide this in a reliable and quick manner. The objective of the treatment recommendations is to maximize your child’s independence and participation in home, school, and community-based activities.