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Foot drop: where, why and what to do?
  1. John D Stewart
  1. Consultant Neurologist, Lions Gate Hospital, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  1. Dr J D Stewart, 145 East 13th Street, #204, North Vancouver, BC V7L 2L4, Canada; john.stewart{at}telus.net

Abstract

Foot drop is a common and distressing problem that can lead to falls and injury. Although the most frequent cause is a (common) peroneal neuropathy at the neck of the fibula, other causes include anterior horn cell disease, lumbar plexopathies, L5 radiculopathy and partial sciatic neuropathy. And even when the nerve lesion is clearly at the fibular neck there are a variety of causes that may not be immediately obvious; habitual leg crossing may well be the most frequent cause and most patients improve when they stop this habit. A meticulous neurological evaluation goes a long way to ascertain the site of the lesion. Nerve conduction and electromyographic studies are useful adjuncts in localising the site of injury, establishing the degree of damage and predicting the degree of recovery. Imaging is important in establishing the cause of foot drop be it at the level of the spine, along the course of the sciatic nerve or in the popliteal fossa; ultrasonography, CT and MR imaging are all useful. For patients with a severe foot drop of any cause, an ankle foot orthosis is a helpful device that enables them to walk better and more safely.

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