Exoskeleton helps kids with cerebral palsy walk
Children with cerebral palsy will be able to walk upright and on their own thanks to a new robotic suit, a new study suggests.
American researchers have created a robotic exoskeleton that attaches to children’s legs and have improved posture and mobility in an equal or better way than invasive orthopedic surgery would.
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder causing limb weakness, limited mobility, and lack of coordination and is the leading childhood disability.
The researchers suggests that prolonged at-home use can eventually lead to children with cerebral palsy walking free of any assistance.
The exoskeleton mostly displayed improvements with crouch gait in children with cerebral palsy.
Couch gait is a condition causing excessive knee bending as a result of this incurable disease.
Researchers from the United States National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in North Carolina conducted a study of the technology involving seven participants ages five to 19 over a period of eight to 12 weeks.
The children practiced walking with the exoskeleton across the lab floor and on a treadmill during their visits which lasted up to an hour.
The study reported that six of the seven participants showed improved knee extension while walking with the technology by the sixth session.
“Increased step length and gait speed suggest that the participants adapted to the assistive devices,” the study reports.
Rather than guiding the lower limbs, the exoskeleton changed the posture by introducing discrete bursts of knee extension assistance while the children were walking.
Researchers said that the ability to walk contributed to physical health and overall well-being particularly in children with motor disability, ‘and is therefore prioritized as a rehabilitation goal.’
The improvements in the children’s posture and crouch gait warrant longer-term studies with robotic exoskeleton assistance.
Researchers say the next step is to conduct the study on a larger scale where children will use exoskeletons at home for a year, giving them access to the type of physical therapy that could leave them without the need of any assistance.
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