Gait laboratory

Motion-Capture Helps Heal Ethiopian Kids Who Struggle to Walk

ADDIS ABEBA – Cure Ethiopia Children’s Hospital (CURE) has opened a Gait Laboratory equipped with a technology that will be used to heal kids who struggle to walk.

The lab is said to be the first of its kind in the country and only the second on the entire continent.

It uses special motion-capture cameras – the same type of cameras used for making animated movies and computer games – to track a patient’s movement.

According to the hospital, in the lab, reflective markers are placed all over the patient’s body. The cameras emit light, and when that light is reflected via the reflective markers, the camera follows its movement, thereby recording the joint motion tracking the patient’s movement.

In addition to the cameras, the patient also walks on sensitive plates that provide further information.

The innovative technology is primarily used for patients with neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy to analyze their walking and to help determine the ideal treatment for the patient.

The lab equipment – donated to CURE by three companies – VICON, AMTI, and NOVEL – helps doctors assess complex orthopedic problems, according to experts.

“Besides helping those who struggle to walk, the gait lab will also help with other things, too,” said Dr. Julie Stebbins, an international authority on gait analysis.

“You can measure hand and arm function using the same camera, assess children with cerebral palsy, and you gain information to provide treatment or conditions related to the motions of arms and hands,” Dr. Stebbins added.

Dr. Stebbins came to Ethiopia to install the equipment and train CURE’s doctors and physicians.

“We mainly use the lab for walking disabilities, but in the future, implementation of the equipment can be extended for other uses, for example, arms.” she pointed out.

Gait Labs have become an essential part of the care of children in large pediatric orthopedic centers in North American and Europe, said the CURE’s officials adding that they are “delighted that it can provide the service here, in Ethiopia”.

“As an Ethiopian, it gives me great pleasure and pride to be the only center in Africa, outside of South Africa, to provide this service, this will improve our treatment plan for children,” said Adey Abate, Executive Director of CURE.

CURE is the first and only organization of its kind that provides free surgical and other rehabilitative services to children in Ethiopia suffering from disabling and disfiguring orthopedic and other conditions.