BUILDING R. Put one foot in front of the other. Usually, it is not especially complicated to walk. But Roy Tranberg and his colleague Roland Zügner in the walking lab in the new Building R look at walking with slightly different eyes than most of us.
Roy Tranberg is a licensed orthopedic engineer and Doctor of Medical Science. Roland Zügner is a licensed physiotherapist specialized in orthopedics. And if all goes well, he will also become a Doctor of Medical Science when he defends his thesis on December 8.
Both are tied to what in everyday language is called the walking lab in Building R.
“Although, it’s not just about walking and problems that are related to walking. Our focus concerns all of the motor organs,” says Roy Tranberg.
And now this will be done in the newly built Building R at Mölndal Hospital. Even if the operation is not unique in any way, the facilities are. Because it is the first time in the laboratory’s 20-year history that the facilities have been planned and adapted to the operation and not vice versa.
“We’ve been able to be involved from the beginning and say how we would like to have things. And based on this, the lab was then built and equipped. As far as we know, there’s nothing similar at many other places,” says Roland Zügner.
The operation primarily involves movement analyses. And this is done by filming, photographing and measuring. The patients who come here, around 150 per year, have all sought help because they have problems walking or moving in some way. They are children, adolescents, stroke patients, patients with cerebral palsy injuries, or those who are subject to an examination before or after surgery.
“When a patient comes in for this kind of problem, we are a part of the battery of many measures, mappings and examinations that are done,” says Roy Tranberg.
A walking or movement analysis is done so that reflector points are attached to the patient, from a few if it involves a single extremity to 30 or so if the whole body’s movements are to be analyzed. Then the patient is filmed and photographed when he or she walks or does different movements.
The laboratory is equipped with 14 cameras that take up to 240 pictures a second from various directions. In the floor, there is also an area with plates where the foot’s pressure against the base is registered and it is possible to see how the force is moved during the course of the step.
Using advanced technology and computer programs, animated 3D models are then produced that form the basis of the analyses subsequently done.
“We worked this way before too. The difference is that the new technology gives us much better possibilities of conducting detailed studies of various things when we are trying to find a problem,” says Roland Zügner.
So there is a lot of looking at films of walking patients. And both Roy Tranberg and Roland Zügner admit that they have been changed by their profession. Not even in their time off can they help but look at people and note how they walk and move.
“In any case, I notice if there’s something that disturbs a walking movement, if there’s something that doesn’t follow a normal pattern,” says Roland Zügner.
But is there a “normal” walk?
“No, there isn’t really. Everyone walks differently, depending on their height, muscle strength and so on. Our way of walking also changes over the years. So if you add together everything that could be called a normal walk, there’s a great deal of variation,” says Roy Tranberg.
But it is when there is something that does not work that the patient comes to the walking lab to get help. The assessment done then forms the basis of continued care efforts.
“Based on what we find out, we can propose certain measures. Or advise against others. There are different things that have to be weighed in,” says Roland Zügner. “And we’re not the ones who have the last word.”
Doing movement analyses is actually nothing new. Aristotle already in his time made models of the human body to be able to study their movements in detail. And 3D technology began to be used as early as the end of the 19th century.
So actually, there is nothing particularly new about the walking lab in Building R; it is just so much better than before.
TEXT: KATARINA HALLINGBERG/SAHLGRENSKA UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
PHOTO: JULIA ANDERSSON