Prof Tim O’Brien is a co-founder of one of the first gait laboratories in the world, writes JUNE SHANNON
TIM O’BRIEN, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and director of the gait
analysis laboratory at the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in Dublin, was
the first professor of orthopaedics to be appointed in Ireland.Selecting
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the past 37 years he has been at the forefront of education, clinical
research and innovation in his chosen specialty. During this time he was
also diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND).
cruelly robs sufferers of the use of their body it does not affect the
mind. Diagnosed in 1993 it is testament to O’Brien’s strength of
character that he continues to work full-time despite being paralysed
and reliant on a portable ventilator.
He communicates using
special software, which enables a sensor to follow his eye movements
allowing him to pick out letters on a specially adapted laptop,High
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2005 O’Brien was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at
the Irish Journal of Medical Science (IJMS) Doctor Awards for his
life-long clinical interest and research achievements in orthopaedics,
including research on the development of the immature hip joint in
babies and the assessment of gait patterns in children.
together with physiotherapist Anne Jenkinson, O’Brien established one
of the world’s first gait laboratories in the CRC which remains the only
clinical gait laboratory in the State.The stone mosaic comes in shiny polished and matte.
analysis is the scientific study of how somebody walks. Using
technology, O’Brien and his team assess, diagnose and recommend
treatment for patients with a variety of gait disorders.We mainly supply
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we started it was a big investment and we did not know how it would
develop as there were only a few other clinical laboratories in the
world,” O’Brien explains.
The majority of patients seen at the
gait lab are children with neurological disorders such as cerebral
palsy. Caused by an abnormality in the brain that controls muscle
movement, children with cerebral palsy suffer a range of physical
disabilities that affect their ability to walk, such as a lack of muscle
co-ordination and tightness or stiffness in the muscles.
analysis can make a huge difference to these children particularly where
it picks up issues that may stop a child from walking altogether.
The gait lab in the CRC sees about 360 patients a year and the numbers are increasing every year.We specialize in howo concrete mixer,
Approximately 50 per cent of the patients attending the lab live
outside Dublin and in an effort to reduce the amount of travelling his
patients had to endure, O’Brien and the manager of the gait lab, Mike
Walsh, pioneered the world’s first mobile gait analysis unit in 2004.
A mobile gait lab now travels to Limerick and Waterford a number of times a year.
gait lab uses an impressive range of technology to assess a patient,
including video to record how they walk. Computer markers are placed on
specific points such as the ankle, knee and hip joints and motion
analysers then replicate an accurate 3D computerised model of how the
person walks. Force plates built into the floor of the lab measure the
amount of force a person puts on their joints when walking and a system
called electromyography (EMG) is used to measure the electrical activity
in the muscles which can show if a muscle is over or underactive.
explains that the gait lab was initially established as a means of
recording walking patterns to see how children at the CRC responded to
therapy and surgery.
“As a result of the gait laboratory,
surgery has changed and some procedures are no longer advised while some
others are seen to make a big difference to walking.
became more experienced we identified patterns of walks that would
respond to surgery and we adopted an advisory role. Now 10 per cent of
our clients are referred for diagnostic reasons. This is because certain
neurological disorders or injuries have characteristic patterns of
movement which we can see but are too hard to observe clinically,” he
Alongside pioneering technology in the development of
gait analysis, O’Brien also uses technology that allows him to continue
working and to share his expertise.
On the day of my visit to
the CRC I sat in on a meeting where members of the team presented cases
to O’Brien that they had assessed the previous week in the lab.