An AFO, or ankle foot orthosis, is a brace that is created to provide support for the foot and ankle. They increase the stability of the patient while walking and are ideal for patients with weak muscles in the ankle or foot, which can be caused by many things.
Custom vs Premade AFOs
There can be some debate about which type of AFO brace is best for patients. Ultimately, there is no definitive right or wrong answer. The type of brace that is best for the patient depends entirely on that individual patient’s needs and preferences.
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When a patient will be using an AFO for an extended period of time, they typically prefer to have a brace custom made. Custom braces allow greater comfort and support tailored for the patient’s unique support needs and the size and shape of the ankle and foot. Custom AFO braces can be created in as little as 24 hours in some cases, but may take longer in other cases, which can be a concern for some patients and medical professionals.
On the other hand, premade braces can be adjusted and are typically available much more quickly. This makes premade, or prefabricated braces ideal for patients who may need support immediately, or only need to wear the brace on a short term basis. They can also offer a temporary solution to help support the patient while a custom brace is being made. It’s important for the doctor and patient to discuss all needs and all options when determining what type of brace to use.
A Few Notes for Medical Professionals
When working with your patient, it is important to keep in mind that the longer the patient wears the AFO, the greater the results will be. For this reason, premade braces can be an excellent choice. Many patients find them comfortable to wear and just as supportive as custom braces. However, there are also patients who find premade braces uncomfortable and do not feel they offer the same quality of support as a custom AFO braces. When the patient will only be wearing the brace for a short period of time, encouraging the use of a premade brace can be an excellent solution if the patient is comfortable with the idea. However, patients wearing the brace for extended periods of time will likely want to make sure they get the most comfortable brace possible, making a custom brace the best long term solution in most cases.
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