Use of Exoskeletons in Individuals With Spinal Cord Injuries

A three-phase clinical trial explores a lightweight exoskeleton system to evaluate its impact on the lives of people with mobility issues due to spinal cord injuries. The robotic tool allows people with complete paralysis — no motor or sensory function below their level of injury — to rise, stand and walk.

Kristin D. Zhao, Ph.D., director of the Assistive and Restorative Technology Laboratory in the Mayo Clinic Rehabilitation Medicine Research Center, and Megan L. Gill, P,T, D.P.T., NCS, discuss the Department of Defense-funded research, which studies whether use of an exoskeleton can provide people with spinal cord injury the opportunity for life outside a wheelchair.

The trial evaluates:

  • Potential for use of the exoskeleton as it currently exists
  • Impact of additional functionality stimulus that simulates a motor contraction
  • Use of the device in the home

Health benefits explored include less pain, less spasticity, improved bowel and bladder function and improved body mass index.

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