Robot suit enables SCI patients to move

One of the biggest rehabilitation barriers for spinal cord injury patients is their inability to move. With better management of their condition, improvements in their abilities to move themselves can be seen. A new form of non-invasive treatment in the form of a robot suit is showing signs of hope for paralysed patients.

This robotic suit is currently in use as part of a clinical trial at the St David’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Texas. The treatment offers extremely low levels of risk to the patient and is not invasive in any way. The ReWalk system consists of a suit that is worn by the patient. It is operated by a motor, which helps them to walk. The system senses when there are changes in a patient’s notion of balance. It then processes these and enables the patient’s legs to move with natural fluidity.

Wider benefits of ReWalk

As well as allowing patients to walk by themselves, the system also offers wider benefits to the rehabilitation process. As a patient moves more, the muscles in their legs and arms start to grow stronger. This increased movement helps stimulate the nerve endings, which send signals to the brain to move different parts of the body. In the future, this could enable them to start walking unaided. The ReWalk system is currently approved in Europe to be used independently. In the US it is available to be used as part of clinic trials only.

ReWalk Robot Suit

A Robot Suit that can help SCI patients in moving and rehabilitation.

Photo Credit: Biorobotica Aplicada via Compfight cc

Integration into the rehabilitation process

One of the key elements of the care of a patient with SCI is to ensure they follow a well structured rehabilitation process. This should cover all areas of their health and wellbeing, including both physical and psychological help. The use of these robotic suits can become part of an overall rehabilitation management programme.

Rehabilitation should begin from the moment a patient is admitted. Every element of their care works towards their eventual discharge from the medical facility. However, poor standards of care can have a detrimental effect on a patient, increasing their stay in hospital or setting back their rehabilitation. This includes how they are managed on a hospital ward.

Pressure ulcers are one of the most common issues for patients who remain in one position for long periods of time. SCI patients with little natural movement can quickly develop serious ulcers, which can lead to further complications. One of the most beneficial ways of preventing these from forming is the use of a frequent turning policy. SCI patients should be turned on average every two hours. This will reduce the likelihood of pressure ulcers developing and increase the efficiency of their rehabilitation.

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