For paraplegic patients, it is often difficult to do their activities of daily living. Due to physical limitations, these people most of the time need a lot of assistance from others. But there’s good news for these individuals, today’s technology helped create and develop the so-called “exoskeleton”.
People suffering from paraplegia have impairment in their sensory or motor function of the lower extremities. Paraplegia is a Greek word that means “half-striking”. This condition is usually a result of injury in the spinal cord, or caused by a congenital condition, like spina bifida.
Paraplegic patients can now rejoice with the newly invented battery-powered, wearable device that enables them to do things such as sitting, standing, and walking and even go up and down the stairs, though with a little assistance from another person. This device, called as the exoskeleton, fits and covers almost two-thirds of the patient’s body.
The so-called exoskeleton is developed by the Argo Medical Technologies, located in Marlborough, Massachusetts. The exoskeleton is often referred as ReWalk since it’s designed for the rehabilitation of paraplegic people. The device is said to provide a unique and incredible means of exercise and therapy.
The exoskeleton is created with a metal brace that supports the lower torso and the lower extremities. This metal brace is secured firmly in place by a harness that is worn or attached over the wearer’s shoulders and around the chest.
The battery-operated motors of the ReWalk enable movement of the hips, knees and ankles. The ReWalk device is controlled and managed by a computer worn like a backpack. This backpack also contains the device’s power source.
The wearer or the patient makes use of a wireless remote control attached on the wrist for the initiation of movements, like standing, sitting and walking. The paraplegic individual also uses crutches for added support. Assistance from a trained personnel or companion is still required.
Patients themselves need a considerable time for using the device and to get used to their new functionalities. It is important to bear in mind that these patients still need support and assistance apart from the device since they are just starting to get a hold of new movements.
The indication for the device that is specifically approved is for individuals with paralysis in the lower body, from the lower torso down to the legs due to spinal injuries from level Thoracic 7 to Lumbar 5, and also from Thoracic 4 to Thoracic 6. The device is adjustable for different patients. It can accommodate weights up to 100 kilograms or 220 pounds, and heights ranging from 160 centimeters to 190 centimeters or 63 – 75 inches.
The exoskeleton or ReWalk may be beneficial in many ways but it is not without adverse or harmful effects. Patients who used the device long-term develop pressure sores or ulcers, scrapes and bruises. They are also at risk for injuries due to falls and diastolic hypertension while wearing the device.
However, the adverse effects and the risks determined are said to be low to moderate, which means patients could still continue to use the exoskeleton but with increase safety precautions. That is why assistance from another person, especially trained individual or medical personnel is still necessary.
This newly developed device indeed is good news for the paraplegia patients. It helps these individuals perform new tasks and discovered new functions.