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UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital

Pediatric Orthopedic Gait Analysis Lab Aids in Diagnosing and Treating Gait Abnormalities

UW Health Research Park Clinic is home to a facility that aims to help children improve their walking ability if they have cerebral palsy or other neuromuscular disorders.


The pediatric orthopedic gait analysis lab monitors the patient's movements with the use of markers attached to the patient's hips, knees and feet and six infra-red cameras positioned at different angles throughout the lab.


The markers and cameras work together to capture the internal workings of the joints and muscles, and produce an image on a computer monitor. Information shown on the monitor helps determine if there are flaws in the patient's walking pattern and helps orthopedic surgeons make decisions on what should be done to correct them.


"The monitor shows the patient in a stick figure that tells us how the joints and muscles are functioning," says Dr. James McCarthy, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, WI. "It's the same technology used to make computer games and movies."


McCarthy says children with cerebral palsy between ages 4-18 years will make up most of the lab users.


"Many children with cerebral palsy are walking, but not using the proper mechanics," he said. "There isn't a set pattern on how they walk; they are very individual. Once we see how they walk, we can offer some options that might be able to help them."


McCarthy says information obtained by the gait analysis is very thorough and provides insight on how to remedy problems.


"We can use many different surgical options to correct someone's walk if a person has cerebral palsy," he says. "If you can do it non-surgically, that is always a choice. But if that is not an option, there are many things we can do. It depends on each individual's situation."


"If a patient's right leg turns in, but the left doesn't, we may have to surgically rotate the leg so it's straight," he adds. "But maybe it's turning in at the hip or turning in at the foot. Maybe the patient bends his knee a lot. Gait analysis allows you to look extensively at the problem, and you have a number of options on how to correct it."


The gait analysis lab at UW Health Research Park first opened its doors a number of years ago to analyze runners, to determine why they get injuries such as shin splints. It is one of only two gait analysis labs in Wisconsin.


For more information about the Gait Lab, contact the clinic at (608) 265-3341. You can also e-mail gait analysis lab manager Karen Patterson at