I Give the L300 Go a Mixed Review
I’ve been walking with the Bioness L300 Go for about eight months, so it’s time to update everyone on how things are going.
The L300 Go is a functional electrical stimulator (FES) that helps counter my foot drop. MS has damaged the nerve that carries the message telling my left ankle to flex upward and lift my toes as I walk. The L300 Go senses when my left leg starts to move forward. Through a cuff strapped below my knee, it sends a low-intensity electrical pulse to the nerve, ordering my ankle to flex up and lift my toes.
The Go is an upgraded version of the original L300. I started using the original device in October 2012. Shortly before the Go became available in 2017, I gave it a test walk. But I didn’t want to spend $4,000 on the trade-in cost to buy one. The L300 isn’t covered by most commercial insurance policies, Medicare, or Medicaid.
But because Bioness was phasing out support for the older unit, I tried the Go again last December. This time, I decided to bite the financial bullet and upgrade.
Mixed results for the L300 Go
The best thing about the L300 Go is that it doesn’t require a sensor in my shoe like the older model. That means I can easily change shoes or even use the cuff while I’m barefoot. The lack of this sensor, however, means there’s a little relearning curve. With a sensor, the electrical pulse would fire as I lifted pressure off my heel. Without the sensor, the pulse reacts to leg movement rather than heel pressure. So, the pulse seems to begin later and last longer.
I also need to walk a step or two until the unit’s three-axis gyroscope and accelerometer learn what my leg is doing. The folks at Bioness say this allows the unit to adjust for different walking speeds and surfaces, but I’m not sure that it really does. At least, I don’t notice it changing.
The Go, like the original L300, also is inconsistent. Its placement on the leg must be just right, and after using one for nearly eight years, I’m still not sure where to put it each time I strap it on. Sometimes I have to try two or three spots. My leg also has to be clean and can’t have any kind of lotion or soap residue on it. The electrodes seem to be very sensitive about skin conductivity.
What do other users think?
Earlier this month, a reader with secondary progressive MS who knows I use the L300 asked for my opinion of it. She’s been testing one and says she can’t use it for more than two hours because it overstimulates her leg. Changing the type of electrodes and having the unit’s intensity adjusted several times hasn’t helped. She’s not sure the device is worth spending upward of $5,500 and is thinking of trying an ankle-foot orthosis instead. She wondered if different people have different results with the L300. She may be right.
Coincidentally, a few days ago, a 74-year-old reader in Belgium also sent a note about a column I’d written about my L300 Go, but his reaction was different. The reader, diagnosed with MS about a decade ago, said he’s been using the L300 device for five years, and he can’t be without it. He uses it to walk distances greater than 50 meters, he wrote.
I fall in the middle of these two opinions. I used my original L300 frequently when I first got it, but less as my MS progressed. When I got the L300 Go, I also used it a lot. If I went to a restaurant, for example, I used it to walk from my parking spot rather than riding my scooter.
Since last March, trips anywhere have become few and far between. It hasn’t been worth it to fuss with the cuff on most days. If I have to walk a short distance, I use my two canes and drag my leg.
I know that I walk better using my L300 Go. When I do a 25-foot walk test for my neurologist, I walk significantly faster when I use the cuff. If I can walk faster and use less energy, I should probably use the cuff more. Maybe if the world ever returns to normal, I will.
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