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Ground-Breaking “Wearable Robot” Unveiled for SCI Patients

The Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital recently took delivery of a ground-breaking rehabilitation tool designed for adults living with the consequences of spinal cord injury (SCI), strokes and other neurological conditions affecting gait.

The Ekso GT Bionic Suit is a new ‘wearable robot’ – a gait-training exoskeleton that enables people with complete spinal cord injuries and reduced forearm strength to stand up and walk.

Complete spinal cord injuries involve a permanent loss of ability to send sensory and motor nerve impulses to the brain, as well as a usually permanent loss of function below the level of the injury.

The Ekso GT enables users who have sufficient upper body strength to balance using either crutches or a walker to re-learn the stepping and weight shifting processes used while walking.

The device is intended for supervised use with spinal cord-injured patients as well as those with various levels of paralysis, hemiparesis, or lower limb weakness due to neurological conditions such as strokes or traumatic brain injuries.

It can be worn over a person’s clothing and a variable assist tool can be employed to help patients contribute their own strength – from either leg – towards their walking efforts. Button-activated sensors power battery-operated motors in the legs and enable users to bear all their weight whilst walking.

Ekso dynamically adjusts to ensure the user’s gait is smooth and consistent. Physiotherapists supervising the patient can modify the amount of power needed from the exoskeleton for each leg to complete each step in real time and in accordance with the user’s needs.

The Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital is the only UK centre trialling the Ekso GT Bionic Suit and aim to be a market leader in specialised rehabilitation and care. The hospital offers comprehensive rehabilitation services to neurological and spinal cord-injured patients using the latest advances in assistive technologies.

Intensive spinal cord injury rehabilitation programmes can combine physical therapies with skill-building activities and counselling to provide social and emotional support and help spinally-injured patients to adjust to the limitations and more permanent effects of their injury.

Such programmes are designed to improve patients’ quality of movement, core strength, joint range and posture in order to optimise their maximum possible independence and reduce the time they need to spend in hospital.

Exoskeletons are not new; in fact this is the 3rd generation of its kind. What is so exciting about this product is how light-weight it is. It weighs in at just 12kg, which is half the weight of its 2nd generation predecessor. Combined with its rapid set up and the prospect that it may be used outside of rehabilitation centres, this device may be a possible game-changer.

Nick Godwin is a Serious Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon in London. Nick is the firm’s local practice development leader for brain and spinal injuries in London.

The Slater and Gordon Spinal Injuries team has access to a network of treatment providers and medical experts with a vast range of experience in helping people who have suffered serious injuries. We can arrange medical treatment, physiotherapy, counselling, retraining, re-housing and many other rehabilitation services.

Whatever the nature and extent of your injuries, we will make sure you are in the very best hands.

For a free consultation, call us on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.

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