UNO Researchers use ankle casts to ease leg pain, improve patients’ lives


Charlotte Reilly

Researchers at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) are helping people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) walk further.

PAD is caused by plaque build-up within the arteries. Less oxygen is able to reach the leg muscles, which causes sharp pains.

“We think that muscle oxygenation could be an important factor for discriminating patients that can walk further versus those who can’t,” said Sara Myers, associate professor of Biomechanics.

Myers and neuroscience student Anthony Arellano are using oximeters to measure the amount of oxygen delivered to each patients’ muscles. Oximeters measure oxygenation through infrared light.

They are also testing the benefits of ankle foot orthotics, which are made of carbon fiber, a material that absorbs energy as people walk. As the legs come off the ground, some of that energy is released and works with the calf to help push the body forward. Myers and Arellano have found patients are able to walk 20 to 30 percent farther.

“Our goal is to use non-invasive methods to help improve the lives of these patients with the modalities that they have,” Arellano said. “They get fitted for an AFO, and they could use it every day without having to spend a lot of money on physical therapy or deal with the recovery time and risk of surgery.”

Arellano was awarded a Fund for Undergraduate Scholarly Experiences (FUSE) grant to help him continue the research. He said working with Myers has helped him develop his skills as a researcher.

“You get to gain experience outside of the classroom and learn more about long-term research projects,” Myers said. “You’re here to learn, and FUSE helps students get the most out of college.”