Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has become the first pediatric hospital in the United States to offer enhanced neuro-rehabilitation through a robotic exoskeleton.
The wearable robot, created by Ekso Bionics, would enable children and teens with lower extremity paralysis or weakness to stand and walk with minimal assistance, according to a press release.
Using motors, sensors and the patient’s assistance with balance and positioning, the device allows the user to walk over ground with an efficient, repetitive gait pattern. This could help the body recover from injuries or disorders that have hindered motor skills, the release said.
“Neuroplasticity is the adaptive capacity of the central nervous system to respond to repeated changes in stimuli, which it may do by reorganizing its structure, function or neural connections,” Joshua Vova, MD, medical director of Rehabilitation Services, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said in the release. “In effect, it can help patients recovering from stroke, brain injuries and spinal cord injuries to learn to walk again with a proper gait pattern, which may help to minimize compensatory behaviors.”
The exoskeleton would also provide therapists with immediate feedback from each step the patient takes showing how much work the machine is doing vs. how much work is being done by the child.
Physical and occupational therapists at the Children’s Center for Advanced Technology and Robotic Rehabilitation plan to use technology to help patients perform repetitive movements, build strength and coordination.
Research shows that therapy with repetitive and random patterns helps the brain and spinal cord work together, increasing strength, coordination, function and independence, according to the release.