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Custom AFO for Ankle Arthritis

Don Pierson, CO, C.Ped

The letters A-F-O are an acronym for Ankle-Foot-Orthosis. An orthosis is the medical term for “brace”. So, a custom AFO is a brace that is custom made to fit your lower leg, ankle and foot.

A custom AFO can be fabricated in a variety of styles and many different materials may be used in the fabrication of the device. The overall height of an AFO may range anywhere from 5 inches above the ankle to up over the apex of calf muscle, depending on the amount of control required to address the patient’s specific need. Some of the early designs of an AFO consisted of two metal uprights that attached at the top to a metal calf band that was covered with a leather cuff and was attached to a shoe by having a steel stirrup riveted to the sole of the shoe. These are continued to be used today.

In the 1970′s plastics were developed that worked well for orthopedic bracing. A cast is taken of the patient in order to provide a custom plastic AFO. Polypropylene or Co-polymer plastic is vacuum formed over a plaster model of the patient’s leg. This is then trimmed, smoothed up, and strapping is applied. These devices became rapidly accepted because they fit inside of the patient’s shoe, so it enabled the patient to wear a variety of footwear, and it was also much lighter weight that the metal version.

In the 1990′s the Arizona AFO was developed. This device combined a plastic AFO with a leather gauntlet. The result was a brace that was much more comfortable to wear and it also provided increased support and control.

You may ask the question, “why do I need one?” With arthritis comes pain, immobilizing the affected joint and limiting as much movement as possible, pain is often greatly reduced or eliminated. The Arizona AFO brace does just that. Motion of the ankle is controlled and pain and discomfort is reduced.

This type of AFO fits into a shoe and the shoe plays an integral role in its effectiveness. It may be necessary to use an orthopedic or therapeutic shoe that has additional depth built into it to assure proper fit and function.

Many patients have had success in the treatment of arthritis of the foot and ankle through the use of a custom made Arizona AFO. For additional information you may wish to visit the website, www.ArizonaAFO.com

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