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KAFO Bracing and the Benefits of the C-Brace Technology

Overview of the KAFO

Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis, or KAFO, is an orthotic brace that helps to simultaneously stabilize the knee and ankle joints of a person’s leg. This type of brace does well to assist the human anatomy where the muscles of a person’s lower limb(s) may not be functioning to the degree of work necessary for movement. Persons with lower limb deficiencies such as poliomyelitis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and more can lead to varying degrees of paralysis and may be indications for providing a KAFO.  

KAFO Manufacturing  

Traditionally, KAFOs had been made of metal and leather, which preceded the newer and now conventional methods of fabrication. Carbon fiber, plastic, and even 3D printed materials are now the predominant elements of KAFO manufacturing. They also consist of meticulously designed and milled metal and robotic components that are then coupled with the expertise of Tillges Orthotics & Prosthetics manufactured carbon, plastic, and 3D printed parts to make a completely customized experience for the patient.

The development of KAFO bracing has come a long way in such a short amount of time. A rich environment of new, sophisticated means of mobility are growing yet, and are likely to change the future of orthotics, manufacturing, and patient mobility. Team Tillges specializes in numerous types of KAFO orthoses, many of which are made up of hard plastic, and even carbon fiber. These materials can be tailor-made to the exact measurements of a patient’s lower limb utilizing scanning technology that is utilized by our 3-D printing, carving, and modifying departments. This ensures a proper fit for the patient. The materials that make up the brace need to be strong but also light so that patients can put their full trust into the device, ensuring that it won’t give out on them when they need it most. Materials matter when it comes to making a quality KAFO and that is why Team Tillges has made it a priority when it comes to fabricating such devices.

Figure 1: Custom KAFO
Figure 2: Custom KAFO Droplock Knee Joint

Options for KAFO Joints

In addition to the selection of materials from which the orthosis will be built, choosing the type of knee and ankle joint for the patient’s KAFO can make the brace safer to walk and stand on. Utilizing specific knee and ankle joints in the brace can provide stability to unstable joints and weak or missing muscles of the lower limbs. The most basic type of knee joints consist of locking mechanisms that prohibit flexion of the knee for safety reasons. This allows the user to switch between a locked knee and a free-swinging knee for the benefit of sitting and standing.

Trigger locks and bail locks are common forms of locking knee joints. Trigger locking mechanisms make it easy for the user to unlock the knee joint with the use of a pull-action trigger located on the KAFO in an easy-to-reach location, typically located on the outside of the thigh section. Bail locks are another form of locking knee joints that function by clicking in place once the user reaches full extension of their knee. It remains free-swinging until they are put into the full-extension position, which makes it easier for sitting and standing motions. Another common type of knee joint is the posterior offset knee joint. This type allows the user to remain in a safe position while standing with their legs straight. Once the user bends the knee past a certain number of degrees, their posterior offset joints will allow the patient’s knee to flex into free swing for sitting, standing, and walking. One last option for safe knee joints is the drop lock knee joint. This joint is perhaps the most fundamental form of locking knee joints. There are two metal square pieces that remain above the knee joints themselves for this design. Once the patient wants to lock out the joint, they simply slide the metal square over the joint, and then it becomes locked out. These types of KAFO joints have been around for quite some time and there are still many uses for them, but new technologies are emerging every year that try to make mobility a possibility for patients.

Fig 3: Trigger Lock Joint
Fig 4: Bail & Drop Lock Joints
Fig 5: Posterior Offset Joint

Changing Lives with the C-Brace Microprocessor Unit

Technology is making it possible to mimic muscles in the lower limb in which patients can have weakness. In more severe cases, the patient may have complete paralysis of muscles that help advance the leg forward, backward, and side-to-side. The C-Brace from Ottobock, is looking to change the way that these lacking attributes are viewed through the perspective of mobility. The C-Brace is a microprocessor knee joint unit that is geared towards patients that qualify within the conditions necessary for its functionality. This has the chance to change a person’s life and Team Tillges is a leading manufacturer of KAFO braces that can be paired with the Ottobock C-Brace component.

We specialize in amalgamating the C-Brace with our carbon fiber, light weight technology here at Tillges. Our orthotic clinical expertise allows us to generate a result that is durable and sufficient for patient utilization. The C-Brace is a multifaceted machine that can help provide safer ambulation for the patient (Wilkinson, 2023). The brace enables patients to walk comfortably and with ease through fluctuating topography and terrain. The whole system allows for stance and swing phase functions that can supply the patient with a whole new arsenal of mobility operations that they may not have had previously (Wilkinson, 2023). The C-Brace adapts to its user, meaning that there are custom, diversified modes that the brace is capable of achieving, including adaptable changes in walking speed, walking down stairs and inclines step-over-step, controlled and stable gait characteristics on uneven terrain, walking backwards, stand to sit support, sit to stand support, stumble recovery, less compensation with the contralateral side, etc. (Wilkinson, 2023). The possibilities are endless when this technology becomes commonplace in one’s life. It can change the way you think about mobility and can make mobility a possibility! Team Tillges is here to help you achieve your mobility goals! 

Figure 6: Patient with C-Brace 

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RESOURCES 

  1. Image 3 (trigger lock): https://www.beckerorthopedic.com/Product/KneeJoints/1000KneeSeries/1011 
  2. Image 4 (bail lock & drop): https://www.karepoindia.com/knee-ankle-orthosis.html 
  3. Image 5 (posterior offset):  https://www.beckerorthopedic.com/Product/KneeJoints/1000KneeSeries/1008 
  4. Image 6: https://www.rehacare.com/en/personality/ottobock-app-controlled-leg-orthosis 
  5. Wilkinson, Ron. (2023). Use of Microprocessor KAFO Technology to Restore Normal Gait Mechanics. Ottobock. Slides 16-18. 

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