Individuals stricken by spinal cord injury may lose hope due to the apparent cessation of function associated with this neurological deficit. One of the most common problem of these patients is the loss of ability to walk and move normally. Now, a new bionic exoskeleton suit called EksoTM may be the answer to their most pinning predicament.

EksoTM is a wearable device, which facilitates standing and walking with full weight bearing and alternate, normal gait among patients with weakness of the lower extremities, impaired forearm strength and even those with complete paralysis. Among its other functions include aiding patients to restore correct step patterns through the help of a functional based floor and promoting in-depth step application over ground.

Because of the seemingly advanced and emergent features of the device, people are left wondering about the different mechanisms that make this invention so promising. Here's how it works:

EksoTM is attached to the clothes of the patient and adjusted as appropriate. The battery-operated motor of the device then drives the legs of the patient and becomes the replacement of the weak neurological and muscular capacities.

Various walk modes are available to gradually improve the patient's walking and standing abilities. The Step Generator software enables the individuals to walk in a step-like form with normal gait even from the first session. As the patient improves, the therapist may switch to more challenging modes to suit the patient's progress. Biomechanical alignment and symmetrical gait are also ensured.

Initially, the therapist actuates the steps through the push of a button and the patient then moves from sitting to standing position, then walks with the aid of crutches. During the successive session, the patient will be the one to take in charge of the button on the crutches to actuate the steps. The next step is attained once the patient is able to move the hips forward and shift them sidewards, as this serves as an indicator for the device that the patient is exhibiting correct position and walking proper steps. As the patient advances in skills, the steps are influenced by the patient's weight, including the start of forward movements of the legs.

EksoTM also has a training mode, wherein audible signs are provided to the patient to guide him/ her when to shift from forward or sideward movement to initiate a step. Through this mode, the device is also able to identify the ideal weight shift as the patient progresses.

The device also has an "EksoTM Pulse" feature, which collates and brings data from the device to a web system where patients and therapists can retrieve it for guidance.

Walking is very difficult for paralyzed individuals but knowing that they have something to assist them with may improve their quality of life, says V. Reggie Edgerton, senior author of a research from the UCLA that tested the device on a completely paralyzed man.

Photo: Ekso Bionics | Flickr

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