The use of exoskeletons in the rehabilitation of spinal cord injury (SCI) is not new. But, this summer, researchers at the University of Calgary are beginning the first study ever into its use during the early stages following an SCI. They're hoping that early intervention will lead to better outcomes for patients - increasing mobility, preserving muscle and bone mass, and even improving breathing and bowel function.
Changing Up Current Practices for Spinal Cord Injury
Exoskeletons are motorized orthotic devices that support and move injured body parts. But, complications, other medical conditions or rapid blood pressure changes from standing can make it difficult for patients to use the devices soon after an injury. For some patients, however, starting early exoskeleton therapy may be both safe and feasible - something the year-long study is currently assessing.
Ten patients have been selected for therapy using a wearable, metal-framed device during a series of 60-minutes sessions conducted over eight to ten weeks. Although operated remotely by a therapist, the device does allow users some level of control and enables them to get up and walk.
Lead researcher, Dr. Chester Ho explains: "The first nine months after a spinal cord injury are pivotal to recovery, so we want to attempt to introduce rehabilitation and mobilization early on and see if it makes a difference."
Providing Hope For The Future
So far, participants have responded positively, including 15-year-old Alex, who was injured in a tobogganing accident last winter.
"It really did a lot for my mental and emotional well-being," he says, reflecting on the sensation of walking again. "This gave me something fun and exciting to look forward to every week in a time when I was dealing with a great deal of loss."
If all goes well, a larger study will be planned with more patients.
Gluckstein Injury Lawyers is optimistic about the future of spinal cord injury research, and we rejoice at the early success of this study. We look forward to further exciting developments and continue to provide help and support to SCI patients and their families.
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