Ekso's Advancement Allows Stroke Patients To Relearn Proper Gait Patterns and Weight Shifts
Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network, an Allentown, Pennsylvania-based innovator in the rehabilitation of physical and cognitive disabilities, will soon be the first health-care organization in North America to receive new Variable Assist software for the Ekso bionic exoskeleton.
The Ekso is a wearable, bionic suit, created and produced by Ekso Bionics, which enables individuals with lower extremity paralysis or weakness to stand and walk. Battery powered motors drive the legs and replace neuro-muscular function. The addition of Variable Assist now provides the ability for Good Shepherd's clinicians to augment their patients' strength by tuning the amount of power contributed to help walking efforts for either leg. Variable Assist adds to the Ekso's utility for patients with hemiparesis due to stroke, incomplete spinal cord injury or other neurological injuries or conditions.
Since 2012, Good Shepherd has used the Ekso with spinal cord injury patients, in its outpatient Neurorehabilitation Program. The new Variable Assist software will arrive at Good Shepherd on July 30, 2013, and will be an upgrade to Good Shepherd's current Ekso rehabilitation technology. In late August, Good Shepherd will receive delivery of a second Ekso bionic exoskeleton with Variable Assist for inpatient use at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital.
Many stroke patients experience hemiparesis, or partial paralysis, in a limb or limbs. The new Variable Assist software will allow Good Shepherd's stroke patients to recover more quickly and enhance their walking capabilities. Good Shepherd's therapists now have the option to assign a specific amount of power contribution (based on therapeutic goals) to augment patients' efforts, or to allow the Ekso to dynamically adjust to their needs in real time. For example, the clinician may assign a higher power contribution to produce a more naturalized gait, or less power contribution to challenge the patient's walking efforts. This encourages patients to actively contribute to their recovery process and helps the therapist challenge patients with progressive rehabilitation.
"Being the first on the continent to have Ekso with Variable Assist shows Good Shepherd's commitment to providing leading-edge rehabilitation care to our patients," says Frank Hyland, vice president, Rehabilitation, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network. "Our therapists in our Neurorehabilitation Department have seen great success with the Ekso for spinal cord patients, and now we are certain that this technology will help our stroke patients regain function and return to their lives."
Good Shepherd was the third rehabilitation organization in the United States to receive the Ekso in spring of 2012. Since that time, more than 20 spinal cord injury patients have walked using the Ekso and have included the bionic exoskeleton in their therapy regimen. The Ekso has provided amazing progress for some of Good Shepherd's spinal cord injury patients, who are now able to walk using their own power and leg braces and crutches.