Ekso Bionics has begun shipping an upgraded version of their Ekso bionic suit that powers up patients with spinal cord injuries and pathologies to get them standing and walking again. Each Ekso now comes equipped with three new walking modes for progressive rehabilitation options, and EksoPulse, a wireless networked usage monitor. Patients will have new challenges as they master each level and more control of the suit as they become more adept.
Ekso is a ready-to-wear, battery-powered bionic suit - an exoskeleton - strapped over the user's clothing. The device transfers its 45 lb. load directly to the ground, so the patient doesn't bear the weight and each Ekso can be adjusted in a few minutes to fit most people weighing 220 pounds or less, between 5'2" and 6'2" and with at least partial upper body strength. The patient provides the balance and proper body positioning, and Ekso facilitates walking over ground with reciprocal gait.
"With this upgrade, clinicians using Ekso can now empower their patients even more by teaching them to control the suit autonomously, thereby giving them greater independence," said Eythor Bender, Ekso Bionics' CEO.
"As the patient gains confidence and familiarity with walking, Ekso now permits them to graduate to a next level, and then another," explained Darrell Musick, clinical director at Ekso Bionics. "This comfortable experience-based progression allows for sequentially-increased freedom and better control. The patients love it."
Using a control pad, the physical therapist programs the desired walking parameters, such as step length and speed,and triggers each new step when the patient has either shifted weight into the correct position or verbalized when ready. With ActiveStep mode, intermediate patients are able to trigger their next step with a button on the crutch handle or walker. This frees the therapist's hands to teach the patient how to shift weight to find the balance point. In ProStep mode, once patients have learned how to maintain their balance in Ekso, they can lean forward and shift weight laterally to send a signal to Ekso, which then responds by automatically taking a step. For added safety, the device must first recognize when the user is in the correct position. Another benefit of the upgraded Ekso is that a faster, smoother gait may be attained. A physical therapist is still necessary to spot the Ekso user at this time.
And there's no shirking any more. Ekso now gathers usage statistics automatically during each Ekso walking session and transmits them to a cloud server accessible via secure login. It is expected that this EksoPulse feature will provide valuable medical outcome information that will support claims and reimbursement, while improving both the physical therapist and the patient's comprehension and control of the walking process.
Ekso is already in use at 14 rehabilitation centers worldwide: Craig Hospital (Denver, CO), Good Shepherd Penn Partners (Philadelphia, PA), Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network (Allentown, PA), Huntington Memorial Hospital (Pasadena, CA), Integris Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), Kessler Foundation (West Orange, NJ), L'Istituto Prosperius (Tiberino, Italy), (Mount Sinai Hospital (New York, NY), Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific (Honolulu, HI), Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL), Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (Detroit, MI), Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (San Jose, CA), Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (Boston, MA), and TIRR Memorial Hermann (Houston, TX).