Foot Drop Diagnosis

When diagnosing foot drop, doctors typically rely on a 0-5 foot mobility threshold, with 0 referring to complete paralysis and 5 signifying complete foot mobility.

As there are many potential causes of foot drop, a doctor must first pinpoint its underlying source.

Diagnosing Causes of Drop Foot

A typical foot drop diagnostic process includes:

  • A patient history, involving an understanding of the specific foot drop symptoms, past illnesses, and use of any medications
  • A physical exam, including an examination of the visual appearance and altered behavior of the affected foot and leg
  • Possible additional diagnostic tests, such as:
    • Imaging studies to examine the surrounding areas of damaged nerves (e.g. with an MRI scan)
    • Electrodiagnostic studies (EMG/NCS) to distinguish between the different types of nerve damage
    • A blood analysis for a possible metabolic cause like diabetes, alcoholism, or toxins
    • Fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin, and nitrogen and creatinine tests.

Who Diagnoses Foot Drop?

Foot drop can be diagnosed by a many types of physicians. If the lower back is suspected as a cause, a complete workup by a spine specialist, such as a physiatrist, orthopedic spine surgeon or neurosurgeon, may be advisable.

Once a cause is determined, various foot drop treatments may be implemented depending on the specific patient's condition.

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Written by Grant Cooper, MD