It is estimated that around 375,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury each year. Another 17 million people suffer a stroke. Between these two medical conditions, 60% of acute stroke survivors are left without the ability to walk, or need at least some form of assistance.
It can seem like an uphill battle to provide someone with rehabilitative care for lost motor skills, yet new, robotic exoskeleton technology is serving to maximize these therapies.
For the nearly 68 million people confined to wheelchairs worldwide, the Ekso-Suit GT from Ekso Bionics is able to provide the chance to stand, and even walk again – something they may have thought to be impossible.
Now with recent FDA clearances, the Ekso-Suit is finally making its way into clinics for stroke patients and those with spinal cord injuries at levels T3 to C7 (ASIA D) to begin regaining mobility and building neuromuscular skills.
The features of this exoskeleton are completely patient-centered, utilizing Ekso’s patented Smart Variable Assist software to adaptively power either side of the suit. This allows each wearer of the Ekso-Suit to contribute their own muscular power as they progress with their therapy.
Eventually, the result should be an increase in motor functions and compensatory behaviors – a fancy way of saying they may be able to walk again.
Not surprisingly, this exoskeleton is also providing paralyzed veterans and those with other mobility issues a chance to regain vital motor functions and the possibility of leaving the wheelchair.
The benefits of such a technology are truly groundbreaking, especially given the extremely labor intensive act of helping someone learn to walk again. In addition to interpreting each patient’s exertion of their own strength, the Ekso-Suit also supports the correct posture, proper midline orientation, and balance awareness. With a comprehensive gait mapping function, it’s possible for people to learn correct step patterns and interpret weight shifts – things others with functional legs seldom consider.
In early April of this year, the Ekso-Suit had already helped patients take over 41 million steps in 115 rehabilitation centers across the globe. This makes the reality of robo-rehabilitation all the more possible and accessible in today’s world of therapy. Don’t worry, this isn’t the sort of technology that will make a physical therapist’s job obsolete – at very least you’ll be gaining a new method of maximizing treatment of one of the most difficult motor skills to regain.
Ekso Bionics is committed to increasing the availability of this technology nationwide, providing the professionals with option of requesting on-site demonstrations to see how the exoskeleton really works. Most of the components of this machine can also be 3D printed, making for easy replacements and repairs from anywhere in the world. Truly, the Ekso-Suit is likely to provide both patients and therapists with an unparalleled experience when it comes to physical rehabilitation.