Evaluation of Optimal Control Approaches for Predicting Active Knee-Ankle-Foot-Orthosis Motion for Individuals With Spinal Cord Injury
Febrer-Nafría, Míriam; Fregly, Benjamin J.; Font-Llagunes, Josep M.
Gait restoration of individuals with spinal cord injury can be partially achieved using active orthoses or exoskeletons. To improve the walking ability of each patient as much as possible, it is important to personalize the parameters that define the device actuation. This study investigates whether using an optimal control-based predictive simulation approach to personalize pre-defined knee trajectory parameters for an active knee-ankle-foot orthosis (KAFO) used by spinal cord injured (SCI) subjects could potentially be an alternative to the current trial-and-error approach. We aimed to find the knee angle trajectory that produced an improved orthosis-assisted gait pattern compared to the one with passive support (locked knee). We collected experimental data from a healthy subject assisted by crutches and KAFOs (with locked knee and with knee flexion assistance) and from an SCI subject assisted by crutches and KAFOs (with locked knee). First, we compared different cost functions and chose the one that produced results closest to experimental locked knee walking for the healthy subject (angular coordinates mean RMSE was 5.74°). For this subject, we predicted crutch-orthosis-assisted walking imposing a pre-defined knee angle trajectory for different maximum knee flexion parameter values, and results were evaluated against experimental data using that same pre-defined knee flexion trajectories in the real device. Finally, using the selected cost function, gait cycles for different knee flexion assistance were predicted for an SCI subject. We evaluated changes in four clinically relevant parameters: foot clearance, stride length, cadence, and hip flexion ROM. Simulations for different values of maximum knee flexion showed variations of these parameters that were consistent with experimental data for the healthy subject (e.g., foot clearance increased/decreased similarly in experimental and predicted motions) and were reasonable for the SCI subject (e.g., maximum parameter values were found for moderate knee flexion). Although more research is needed before this method can be applied to choose optimal active orthosis controller parameters for specific subjects, these findings suggest that optimal control prediction of crutch-orthosis-assisted walking using biomechanical models might be used in place of the trial-and-error method to select the best maximum knee flexion angle during gait for a specific SCI subject.