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Filling a Prescription for an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO)

AFO ankle foot orthosis fitting orthotist elevate drop foot

Key Takeaways

  • There are a wide variety of AFO types available and each patient’s specific needs will vary based on their particular foot drop impairment.
  • A patient will see their provider for a prescription prior to an evaluation for the orthotic device by an orthotist or certified clinician. 
  • At your appointment with your orthotist, you will be fully examined and assessed for your specific foot drop symptoms such as dorsiflexion weakness, plantarflexion weakness, overall gait pattern and more to find the best AFO option to suit you and your lifestyle.

Patient Diagnosis

You have recently been diagnosed with foot drop and prescribed an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO), an orthotic device used to support the foot and ankle - now what? In this article we will discuss the different causes for drop foot and why you may have been prescribed an AFO, as well as provide a step by step guide of how to get your AFO prescription filled.

There are several different causes of foot drop that could require an AFO for safer walking.  First is brain injury or spinal cord injury or disorders such as stroke (CVA), cerebral palsy, ALS, or multiple sclerosis. Additionally, general or diabetic nerve injury can cause compression of the peroneal nerve, a nerve in your leg that controls the muscles responsible for lifting the foot. Lastly, muscle or nerve disorders which include inherited diseases or disorders that lead to progressive muscle weakness or contractures, such as muscular dystrophy, polio and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

AFO Options

All of these causes can result in varying degrees of foot drop, which involves difficulty lifting the front portion of the foot, a movement known as dorsiflexion. This muscle weakness of the lower limb, as well as ankle instability will affect the gait (walking) pattern in different ways for each person affected.

Since foot drop can range in severity for each individual, there are many different bracing  solutions available, one of the most common is an AFO. The universal flat footplate is designed to fit in a wide variety of shoes and enhance the  impaired front part of the foot in dorsiflexion, the front foot weakness that foot drop patients experience. AFOs offer a supportive splint around the lower leg to improve foot and ankle stability to help users walk most naturally during the swing phase and overall gait cycle. On top of the difficulty lifting the front part of the foot, many patients may also experience varus or valgus instability, where the foot turns inward or outward. This inversion or eversion, depending on your directional ankle instability, can also be aided by an AFO brace that your providers will determine for you.

There are many different types of AFOs available for you and your orthotist to choose from to fill your prescription from carbon fiber AFOs to custom-fabricated thermoplastic to a combination of an AFO brace with a supporting accessory strap. Your best fit will be determined by not only your impairment indications, but also your height, weight, daily activity levels and other personal factors you and your orthotist will discuss.

Finding an Orthotist & Preparing For Your Visit

Now that we have covered why you may have been prescribed an AFO (brace), let’s dive into what filling that prescription may look like. The first steps in filling your prescription is finding a clinic and certified orthotist in your area that meets your needs, as well as researching your AFO options to prepare for your visit.

In locating the best orthotist and orthotic clinic for you, you may have a referral or recommendation from your prescriber to consider. There are also other ways to find local clinics like Elevate’s Clinic Map or a simple online search. We always recommend patients to take some time to check out the provider’s website and reviews to make sure they’re a good fit before moving forward with an appointment and if you have any questions, Elevate is always here to help you along the way!

The next step is preparing ahead of time with a bit of research of your own on AFOs so you can come prepared with questions for your orthotist. Your initial visit can go by quite fast, so it’s important to prepare any questions ahead of time to make the most of both you and your orthotist’s time. During the appointment, the orthotist will review the basic information provided in your prescription and they perform an evaluation and assessment that will allow them to formulate a treatment plan for the best drop foot solution for you. Throughout the process, it’s important for you to understand your needs and talk through the options your clinician presents to find the absolute best fit for you.

Schedule Your Fitting

Once you have found an orthotist that suits your needs and are prepared with your personal research on AFOs, it’s time to make an appointment to fill your AFO prescription. If you’ve been referred by your prescribing physician to a particular orthotist or clinic, follow their instructions to schedule your appointment based on their referral information. If you have found your orthotist or clinic yourself, the best way to schedule is to call the clinic and make an appointment directly through the front desk and be sure to mention the name of the orthotist you would like to see and any other pertinent information regarding your needs.

In the event you’d like more assistance in the prescription filling process, whether you have further questions on how to make an appointment or you’d like to learn more about AFOs, you can always reach out directly to an Elevate representative at our Live Chat, phone number or email all accessible on our Support Page.

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