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Can foot drop heal on its own?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
Anyone heard of this, have any research on this? I have a large L5 herniation per 11/20/08 MRI and foot drop. 3 Docs all say no surgery since I am not in dramatic pain. I don't know what to do and haven't heard any case of foot drop every "healing" without surgery.



  • In my opinion, there is noooo way it will go away on its own. Part of the reason I had my surgery was because of my drop foot, we didnt want permanent damage done to any nerve if it could be rescued. I had surgery three and a half weeks ago and after 15 months of living with drop foot I can finally move it again. Rule of thumb if the drop foot doesnt go away within six weeks on its own, its more than likely not going to without decompressing the nerve. Drop foot doesnt have to hurt. Mine didnt it was numb, if it hurt I didnt know it. The same day as my surgery I was able to lift my foot again. I would lean towards no it doesn't heal itself unless the nerve that is being pinched somehow becomes...unpinched. Then again if there has been damage done to the nerve, surgery doesnt mean it will fix the drop foot. A nerve test should be done first in my opinion. I had one done and none of my major nerves were damaged so we proceeded with the fusion and, drop foot is fixed :)
  • Thanks, The 3 surgeons I saw all said no to surgery. I'm going to get 2 more opinions (1 neuro, 1 ortho). I am shocked they said the "treatment" was to wear an AFO brace. I'm getting really depressed by the whole thing, and no help.

    Thanks for your answer, and glad to hear to are recovering so well! You've had to go through a lot.
  • about drop foot, I have found that it is caused by some sort of pinched nerve or damaged nerve. It can either occur at the back or at the knee. It is a symptom of something that is wrong with a nerve and I would reccomend getting opinions like you said from two other doctors. I would also strongly recomend you ask for a nerve test to see if your nerves are responsive, to see if any nerve has suffered severe damage. I believe its called EMG and they will send a small electric current right at the nerve sights using small pads to see if your muscle contracts still. Its a good test, not painful just a little wierd feeling. The test confirmed that I had a good chance that after surgery I could regain function of my foot again.
    I understand your frustration and depression by not getting an answer that makes sense. I believe the braces and supports for drop foot only help keep the strength in the muscles related to the foot (could be wrong). As for me my muscle was just going to continue to atrophy as it wasn't recieving the signal to move and flex, but my nerves according to the test said they were not damaged, just pinched or compressed. Research what you can and when you see the doctors express what you have learned and have a list of concerns and questions for them, and I strongly reccomend asking one of them to have the nerve test conducted. PM me if you would like. Drop foot is annoying and depressing and sending your sandle like a missle in the summer just isnt fashionable. haha. Let me know how it goes.
  • Can i get your views on night splints? I've got dropped foot as a result of disc compression. I've had surgery to correct the discs but still suffer from drop foot. Did you/do you wear night splints in addition to da splints? The reason i ask is because i find them uncomfortable and also cant put them on without help. Thanks Andy
  • I have drop foot in my right leg. I have over 60% loss in my right leg up to my back. I have had two EMG (Nerve Conductivity Test) tests done. I wear a AFO. I have had this for over two years now. I had two back surgeries. I was told from my second back doctor that the first doctor cut my L5 nerve. My second surgery was a L5 S1 fusion and a L5 nerve decompression. I have had physical Therapy. I went to a foot and ankle specialist a few days ago. I wanted to see if I could get a tendon transfer. He said a foot uses 6 tendons. I only have one tendon working in my leg. That one is the one that I use to balance with. So I am not the ideal person for this surgery. I can push down with my foot and outwards. My foot is cold and different color than the other leg. My leg is getting smaller than the other one. I am numb from my knee down. My foot gets really dry. I fall also because I hate wearing the AFO.
    I am losing my job as of the 6th of Jan. I recieved my paperwork from HR on the 24th of Dec. I loved my job! I was a city bus driver. Since I have drop foot in my driving leg, it's not safe for me to drive bus. My leg gets weak really quick and if I over use it (which doesn't take much) I will get leg spasms really bad. That one tendon has to do all the work for the rest of the tendons. I was 33 when this started. My life has changed and it's very depressing! I have acute panick attacks like crazy now. I have a great family and I try to tell myself I will be fine and I will have to rethink about what I am going to do with my life. I loved my job!
    So I don't want to keep going on because I will get more depressed. I just wanted to let you know everything I have been through. Maybe you need to get a EMG done, then if it is damaged. You might be able to get a tendon transfer done. If it is pinched, nerve decompression done like the other person said. Good luck! For what I have been told it can take up to a year for people to get their leg back after surgery. My back doctor told me numbness and weakness scares him because it means nerve damage is going to start or is starting. So please check into everything. I had to do some of my own research because no one told me about tendon transfers. So I asked him about it. He said he didn't think it would work for me. He still sent me to a doctor that is a specialist in the field. So he was right. It isn't going to work for me but he said most people it does work great for. I just don't have any tendons working. please check into it because the longer you wait to find out, you are causing more damage. EMG, then a tendon doctor if you are not needing a nerve decompression done. This is my option and a part of my story. I am sharing this because I am going through this for a while now and it might not be so good for me but for you, it might be the right thing. It doesn't hurt to ask the doctor about this at all. Be pro active about your case.
    Take care
  • SuhailKausarSSuhailKausar Posts: 1
    edited 04/15/2013 - 2:29 AM
    My Younger Brother had a horrible Road accident in September 2012. He Injured his Left leg fracturing Thigh Bone, Knee and another Fracture just above his Toe. He went under 8 hours Successful Operation and it all went fine. They inserted two rods one in thigh another in Leg. The most amazing thing is that he started walking without any support after 20 days of his operation. For whole Family, Friends and even for Doctor this was an Amazing Recovery. But since then he is suffering from Foot Drop. He is using AFO to walk. When ever we consult with Doctor he tells us to give more time to it. There is small recovery in his foot. He can Move his Fingers downwards. Being a good Sports Man, he even tries to runs sometimes. I am really worried about his condition. He is out of his College team for 6 months and no idea for how long I have to wait to see him In team again. I would need some suggestions, Should I go ahead for a nerve test for my brother or should I just wait as doctor advised. Also if he goes under a Nerve Operation. How long that operation will be? How many chances are their that he gets a full recovery. Any help or suggestion will be appreciated.
    Suhail K.
  • Robert LojewskiRRobert Lojewski Posts: 1
    edited 07/20/2013 - 10:53 AM
    Yes, Yes and Yes. In early May I developed foot drop from doing my son's roof for 6 days. I lost about 4-5 inches of movement on my right foot and it dragged. Now its July 20th and I have regained all but maybe 1/2 inch of movement. I still don't have all the strength for pulling the foot up but its increasing all the time. I have no doubt that I will soon be back to 100% of normal. I can walk, hike and climb mountains now as I used too. When it first happened I could hardly drive my truck and now I don't even notice it. I did my own therapy of a lot of bike riding and walking. Also kept pulling my foot up with a rope. We have stairs in our home and I kept going up and down the stairs. It was very slow at first and I could only notice a slight improvement the first 3 weeks. So I went to see my doctor. He prescribed a one week treatment of a steroid to relieve swelling around the injured nerve. He said then I just needed time to heal. So don't give up out there as it can heal.
  • All of the doctors i have talked to so far-- including the ones that have thoroughly disagreed with each other-- all have stated that foot drop can indeed go away.
  • The only problem being that the details into how exactly it does "go away" are pretty vague, to say the least.

    Wahini, are you able to stand on your one foot with your toes off the ground, foot dorsiflexed?
  • Yes it can come back. I was left with little hope from Doctors. Shot in left leg at close range 9mm hollowpoint. Entered 4 in above inside knee/exited 8in above outside knee. MRI didnt reveal actual severed nerve, just big glob of tissue. No movement or feeling other than intense pain for 12 months. EMG showed no axons flowing from sciatic in thigh to lower leg. Seen 2 surgeons who both did not want to operate. Foot was frozen in an "exceptable" position. Physical Therapy till insurance ran out provided no results. Began to accept lifelong injury and got on
    with life. At the 13th month slight movement in ankle (able to push). 15 month can now feel tibial activating (pull up). Muscles are reforming in calf and very slight movement in tibia; and 4-5 inch push-down moevment. Pain is similar to when I was shot, but movement is a GODSEND! I will go through all the pain neccessary to get my foot back. Its been 15 months so there is hope!
  • sstar406: What a wonderful story. I really wish your foot function returns!
  • ShodanSShodan Posts: 1
    edited 07/17/2015 - 3:20 AM
    I developed dropfoot shortly after leaving the hospital from heart surgery. I had never heard of it before and finally went to see my neurologist. She conducted tests on my leg and spine and finally said "Your dropfoot will recover, but I cannot tell you how long it will take." I said "Do you mean that it MAY recover?" She repeated "No, it will recover." I had just met a man who has had the condition since 1994, so I was skeptical at best. Lo and behold, I sensed it getting a bit better week by week and now, three months after her examination, I'm walking completely normal. So don't think that it CAN'T RECOVER! Some CAN, so have faith!

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  • eben trebieeben trebi Posts: 1
    edited 07/17/2015 - 3:21 AM
    please help me out here i recently was diagnosed of footdrop the top of my foot feels numb i do not feel any pain in my ankle area also i want to know if it would heal on its own...and how long may it take am 16 years of age.......

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  • rosyidrrosyid Posts: 1
    edited 07/17/2015 - 3:22 AM
    6 months ago I had surgery on the knee because there is damage to the PCL ... after it was found that the condition of my foot was drop ... I do next EMG test with the results is functional lesions ... now after 6 months later ... toes can can be moved..i can pressing it down ... but lifting wrist can not be done ... yesterday, the results of consultation the doctor explained that last conditions is the maximum yield of recovery ... because the recovery time limit is 6 months .... heard it I very sad .... if there was a chance for me to recover to normal ??

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  • RaeRRae Posts: 1
    edited 07/17/2015 - 3:23 AM
    Hopefully you are young rosyid. I will be 70 this month, living with drop foot for a bit over three years now. The nerve was not severed but severely pinched during hip replacement surgery from the front of the body; unheard of. Yet here I am. To give you some cheer, my problem has become better over the years. Not totally gone and never will be at my age; but much better. I am way past the six month mark. Don't give up; keep moving and over time I feel things can improve. Hate it about your wrist. I did not have a problem except in the calf and foot. (I'm very numb and always fear of falling. I take a pill called Neurontin three times a day.) Hah, now I need the other hip replaced and probably will never do it because of FEAR. Praying for you, hang in there.

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  • I hurt my back many years ago. A couple weeks ago it got so bad I couldn't stand it anymore. I made an appointment to go get the Epideral injections my neurosurgeon had ordered for me. The day after the injections I could not move my foot and had excruciating pain down my leg again. I went back to the neurosurgeon and September 28th I went into emergency microdiscectomy surgery. Before the surgery I could move my foot maybe a half of an inch upwards. Pushing down was not a problem. It's been 12 days since surgery and my foot is about the same. If it's improving it so small that its unnoticeable. My back does feel better but my foot really has me down. I'm a person who's always doing something and it kills me. The doctor said my L-5 nerve root was attached to the disc and he had to dissect it off the disc and that the nerve was scarred, he also took out the herniated disc section and did a foraminotomy. I just wanted to post on here my situation so that it may help someone else going through this in the future. I will update as time goes along to whether it's improving or not.
  • harrisonwalsh1hharrisonwalsh1 Posts: 1
    edited 10/21/2015 - 8:48 PM
    hello i'm a 19 year old rugby player i'm technically a pro rugby player, however three days before my first genuine pro week i dislocated my knee tearing out my acl , pcl and lcl i also tore my hamstring from the bone and did some other horrible things. The long and short of it is that my knee is fine after only 8 months, but the foot drop that i got from it has not recovered. I've had nerve tests etc and i stretched the nerve i didn't sever it, i have most of the feeling back and very small twitches has anyone got any help? [EDIT]

    kind regards Harrison Walsh

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  • Hi. My nephew had almost the exact thing happen to him 7 weeks ago. He is 17 years old. He was shot with a 9M in the back of his left leg just above the knee. It entered through the inside of the leg and exited the outside. He lost all movement from his calf down to his toes. His calf muscle has lost mass. 2 weeks ago he started to be able to slightly move his calf muscle (looked like a small twitch) which caused his foot to slightly move downward. He is still not able to control his foot. It sounds like foot drop. Can't control it or move it at all other than the slight movement downward when his calf moves. The doctors keep telling us it is just a waiting game. 2 days ago he started to get pain in his toes. I guess I was wondering if you think the pain is a good sign. Have you recovered? Any progress or symptoms you have had and don't mind sharing would be appreciated. Hope you are still improving. Thanks Kellie
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,125
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  • nine10nnine10 Posts: 1
    edited 12/02/2015 - 9:31 AM
    I was working on a report late one night and fell asleep at the desk, huddled to stay warm and my knee was crunched up against my chest and pressing into the desk. In the morning I just thought my foot was asleep and went to bed for a nap. When I got up a couple of hours later my foot was still dead. The local doc had no useful comments and it took ages to see a neurologist and get a nerve test after. It was a bad case of compressed nerve under the knee. I'd read a lot by then and had felt that my chances for recovery were slim. 1.5 years on and with regular exercise and vitamins (thiamine or B1 specifically, although consult your doctor as this might not be appropriate in every case), I have full mobility and most of the old sensation. There is a numb line on the top of the toe going up to the foot, but I can use it, and given some of the doom-saying I'd read on the Internet, I thought I'd never get better. Very brief articles for the casual user tended to point to permanent incapacity. Then I started to read articles in medical journals and the prognosis looked better, some papers being based on studies of Asian cultures where people sat in a squat position for too long and crushed the nerve, others based on work with alcoholics and addicts in inner cities in the US who had problems related to erosion of nerve sheaths from their chemical intake, and also conking out in awkward positions. In almost all cases in the few but decent studies I read, relevant exercise, vitamin intake and diet, and a positive attitude led to a high degree of recovery and use of the foot or leg. I can't attest to these sources, but I know from my own experience that what was prescribed therein worked for me, and I was apparently a hard case. Those suffering from this issue post-surgery would have other issues, perhaps severed nerves. In my case there were still connections to build on, even though it took a while. We can read and learn, but the right medical expertise is the best way to get a grip on this. Every situation is different. In my experience though, the average family doctor is not very familiar with this issue, so a neurologist would be necessary as soon as it could be arranged.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,125

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  • SuzyMSSuzyM Posts: 1
    edited 01/12/2016 - 8:41 PM
    I completely understand how you feel. I've had lower back problems all my life. Finally went to an orthopedic doctor who said I have scoliosis in my lower spine and an extra vertebrae at the bottom. No tail jokes lol.

    It caused my L4-L5 disc to collapse on my sciatic nerve and was not only severely painful but caused drop foot on my right foot. My foot also looks different. It's a lighter color, no wrinkles, cooler but not cold.

    I had the surgery to repair the disc which helped with the sciatic pain but did'tt do a whole lot for my foot. I can move my toes up and down, very slowly and with a LOT of determination. I do stretching exercises, stand on my toes while holding on to something but I am still falling, can't walk fast or long distances, it's messing with my equilibrium and seems to be getting worse, not better.

    I have always been very active even at 44 before the back started to worsen I would wrestle with my dog, run, jump, climb trees...hell, whatever I wanted to do. Now I feel like a senior and even though some of you may feel that 47 is old it's really not lol.

    I just want my life back. The orthopedic doctor who did the surgery just says I need more therapy. Dude, I could stick a pin in my foot and it would feel like you touched it with a toothpick. I've been to therapy 4 times, it's not working.
    My question is this: what kind of doctor would I see to find out all of my options? Searching the internet seems to point me in the direction of a neurologist but the ones I find in the Detroit area seem to focus on strokes, MS, Migraines, etc. Even doing a Google search of drop foot and neurologist just shows me neurologists who specialize in various diseases rather than nerves or drop foot. Neurosurgeons seem to follow through on what a neurologist comes up with so I feel like I'm in a big circle
    ANY suggestions are welcome. I am beyond desperate to at least be able to walk without worrying about falling and without using any of the garbage footwear that doesn't work.

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,706
    you would go to to help recover that situation.

    Everything I've known about drop foot in the past always points to physical , aqua and/or occupational therapy to minimize the drop foot impacts.

    To identify the medical degree of the drop foot, the EMG diagnostic test is often used to determine the nerves that are damaged or dead.

    In my situation, the EMG pinpointed the number of dead nerves from my right knee down and through the foot. There was nothing to do in terms of the dead nerves, instead the therapy concentrated on me being more aware of the dropped foot. Today, I am pretty good with it, I still will get caught with it at times when am walking up steps.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,125
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  • Lynn-SLLynn-S Posts: 2
    edited 01/18/2016 - 12:06 PM
    Hi. Like anyone who has been diagnosed with a condition, you turn to the internet to find people's stories, problems, outcomes and in a nutshell what you hope to be a good outcome for yourself. When I read SuzyM's story, I thought, very similar to my own as I was fit and fairly active prior and in a matter of minutes my life changed too. I too also had back pain on / off most of my life and besides seeing the occasional chiro or physio, ignored it as it would go away. In June, 2015 I woke up in middle of the night in excrutiating pain - lower back, and a severe burn down my calf/lower leg and foot. LIttle did I know that my disc had erupted in my L4-5 area. In a nutshell, I hobbled around and couldn't work out why my foot wouldn't work and the pain was pretty bad. THought if it's nerve damage I just need some time. Went for an MRI few weeks later and within a matter of days I was having spinal surgery - I had a discectomy and nerve decompression. (this was last July 2015). I'm coming up 6 months now since my surgery and thought I need to share with people what I have done to try and help my own situation. In October 2015 my surgeon told me he thought I should be better than I was with my foot movement..... that hurt as i had high expectations all will be well post surgery. The past three months I made a commitment to a plan of attack to help my condition. I have weekly done acupuncture, deep tissue massage and physio. I also have an exercise physiologist (an upmarket PT) and also attend a weekly pilates class tailored for my condition - both to help with strength, and fitness. I'm coming up to another surgeon review early February, and although I only ever see small improvements (and still live with the tingling, burning and pain of nerve pain), I know it is a matter of time that I hope the whole drop foot goes away. I also have an AFO (carbonfibre top of the range, that is not that pleasant to wear in warmer climates, I wear to work and am just starting to take it off during the day to give my foot/leg some relief from swelling. I have been advised that working is restricting my recovery, but it's one of those things - I need to work to pay for the therapies. I find the deep tissue really helps with the muscles in making sure there is a clear pathway for the nerves to regrow, my acupuncturist is a real traditionalist chinese therapist and when he does his treatment, it's like the foot feels lighter, although the treatment doesn't last, it gives me hope that there's still some healthy nerves. Since my surgery I have no lower back pain and only am dealing with the drop foot and nerve issues.
    I live in Australia and I'm grateful that I was able to access a great surgeon at the time and can only hope that with persistence of therapies that sometime over the next six months I will be walking normal. I recommend doing some types of therapies to help you post surgery and also - most surgeons will tell you you have to also do back exercises daily - this is for life. I'm hoping not to just walk again like a normal person but to go back to my life in ballroom dancing and doing other great things. Anyone reading my story or others with spinal problems, my advice - do research, don't ignore the issue, get help and stay with people who can continue to work with you afterwards to get you to the best position you can be. (plus do your back exercises yourself and stay positive). I'm sure it's just a matter of time..........as frustrating that it is, time will hopefully give you the outcome what we all seek.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,125
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  • rvelarde64rrvelarde64 rvelarde64@gmail.comPosts: 2
    I am a month out of my surgery.  I have hardware fusing L3, L4 and L5 with screws, rods and a cage. My Doctor said my foot drop will improve and I trust and believe him. I know the pain in my feet and tingling will eventually go away, I dont like taking pain meds. I can walk a mile or so easily but the weird sensaroons in my foot and lower leg are driving me bananas. My wife rubs my foot which only provides very temporary relief.  Any suggestions?
  • becka71bbecka71 Abilene txPosts: 1
    Erica could you maybe tell me what kind of Dr got went too, I woke up from a back fusion with a dropped foot my neurosurgeon wouldn't do anything but send me to therapy and said let's wait this was my 3rd back surgery I have radiculopathy I have had a dropped foot for 2 years now with no improvement and I still have back pain and leg pain. Any help would be appreciated 
  • tintinttintin londonPosts: 1
    I suffered a severe disc herniation onto an already pinched nerve[bone growth] back on the 1 Sep 2015 i was taken into hospital and given an epidural and spent the next week in Hospital, after leaving hospital i had severe pain all down my leg and foot drop. Over the next couple of months i could barely walk and spent most of my time in bed monged out on Lyrica Naproxin and a mixture of Codeine and other pain killer, i lost most of the muscle mass on my leg and my foot changed colour completely and would switch from burning hot to freezing cold but the worst aspect was the swelling and sensitivity which meant i could not wear a shoe or walk further than a couple of yards!The ball of the foot was swollen and hyper-sensitive to the point of not being able to place it on the floor. Im 47 and self employed with three kids and three dogs and at this point i was struggling to hold it together with the meds and lack of sleep just leaving me a mess and unable to operate! I had surgery in Jan this year with a decompression and a discectomy and six months later i am up and about and managing two dog walks a day, i am still on medication which bothers me and i still have considerable pain in both my lower back and my foot, my muscle mass has not returned but through regular foot exercises i have regained allot of the control back but still get the numbness and tingling in my foot especially the big toe along with the pain bolts like I'm being electrocuted :( The restless legs at night are my biggest problem now hence my being sat on the computer at one in the morning, the whole episode has turned my life upside down and made me re evaluate my lifestyle choices. I really hope your condition improves as i pray mine will! 
  • Hi. Since my last post in January 2016, I'm coming up to 12 months since my discectomy and nerve decompression surgery.  Yes, I still have some drop foot, but it seems with all the therapies and time, it has helped.  I'm still wearing my AFO on occasions and wear it to / from work only.  I still don't have a full dorsiflex action which is annoying (trip hazard). I still have some tingling in the toes/foot and some down the base of the leg. Every now and again I get the electric volt shock through the back of the thigh (something I never had initially). 

    I've kept up my many therapy treatments and exercises and what has really helped me has been the deep tissue massage - freeing up the muscles to allow the nerves to grow through and physio really helps too.  I've now added a podiatrist to my mix and hope to get some orthotics to try and rectify the foot movement and add support when I walk helping with stability.  I'm told nerves repair at a 1mm per day - it is a long way from your lower back to your big toe.  I definitely have more strength and I am hopeful that a bit more time is what I need - I'm not looking for a full 100% recovery but the closest I can to it.  I rarely take pain killers, but I also don't have the stamina to do long walks without the foot flop - the concentration and control is just not there yet. Foot massages (if you can tolerate it) does help.

    I sincerely wish everyone the best with their recovery and please, stay positive (hard that it is).  It seems this is a slow recovery and I take each week as it comes.......I  filmed myself walking from when it first happened, to the weeks after the surgery and about every 3 or 4 mths since - there is improvement and sometimes going back to see how bad things were, helps you to keep moving forward.

    What also has helped me was meeting a fellow foot dropper (purely by accident).  We were able to share what we were experiencing, the pain, the cramps in the legs, what was working well and what made things worse.  On my last surgeon review I suggested a "drop foot" get together for clients with same problems.  Meeting people who have the same condition and seeing that you are not alone and that someone really understands what you are going through is fantastic for your mental well being.   I have my final review in a matter of weeks - it's been a hard journey and one that I'm still going through.  Lynn

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