Robots Getting Rehab Patients Back on their Feet Faster


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Almost 800,000 people suffer a stroke each year. More than 250,000 people are living with a spinal cord injury. Almost as many people will be diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury in 2021. What do all of these people have in common? Most of them will end up in rehab to help get their lives back to normal. Now, a new type of robot is helping people get up on their feet and walking again.

Twenty-eight-year-old Joshua Naea was a powerhouse on the dance floor. And he kept dancing until a stroke swept him off his feet.

“My left side pretty much felt like it was sinking into the floor. Then I realized I couldn’t move it at all,” shared Naea.

Fast forward six weeks and Naea is walking! The longest ZeroG gait and balance system in the country is what got Naea moving. Therapists use this track to help patients who have suffered everything from spinal cord injuries to bone fractures regain mobility and learn to walk again.

Randy Carson, a physical therapist with University of Utah Health, explained, “It’s a robot that stays above you and then has a tethered line that goes down to a harness.”

Patients can re-learn how to stand, move, walk and climb stairs, all without fear of falling.

“It allows safety really for the therapist and the patient,” continued Carson.

“They put like seven straps on me. I feel pretty safe. And then they got me walking and it was awesome,” smiled Naea.

Therapists believe z-track helps people recover faster and gets them home several weeks sooner.

“I’ve been working in physical therapy well over 25 years and it’s the best piece of equipment I’ve ever worked with hands down,” stated Carson.

It also gave Naea the boost of confidence he needed.

“I was like, okay. You know what? I can recover!” said Naea.

And get back out bustin’ some moves.

Rehab is changing. State-of-the-art technologies like this one are incorporating physical therapy into activities such as cooking and playing sports. New research shows by improving rehab techniques, outcomes for spinal cord and head injury patients are improving, allowing many to leave the hospital by walking out the door, not in a wheelchair.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.

REPORT #2830

BACKGROUND: The integration of body-weight support (BWS) systems, such as ZeroG, into gait rehabilitation strategies following stroke, spinal cord injury, and other neurological disorders allows patients to practice gait and balance activities in a safe, controlled manner. The unloading system can provide up to 300 pounds of static support and 150 pounds of dynamic (or constant force) support using a custom-series elastic mover. The unloading system is mounted to a driven trolley, which rides along an overhead rail.


THE STUDY: Therapists with patients using ZeroG and z-tracks can select the amount of dynamic BWS (between 10-150 pounds) for the machine to help take support of. Therapist can also train patients using static BWS. The custom-series elastic mover control algorithm will then begin controlling the rope force. When first starting up, the trolley tracking algorithm is off, which causes the system to hold its current position on the track but once the patient is ready to walk the trolley tracking that executes the algorithm can be turned on. When dynamic BWS is enabled, the therapist can set the maximum fall distance for the patient so that when the patient drops past this distance, ZeroG will switch from dynamic to static BWS, which will prevent the patient from falling any farther. In addition, if trolley tracking is on when a fall is detected it will prevent any further trolley movement along the track.


NEW STUDY FOR ZEROG TECHNOLOGY: Advances in robotics and biomedical engineering are expanding the options for rehabilitative care and researchers are applying new technologies to gait training that may offer advantages over traditional labor-intensive physical therapy. An inpatient study of a robotic exoskeleton demonstrated the potential to improve gait training after acute strokes toward the goal of earlier recovery of motor functions. A study comparing just using conventional standard of care (SOC) to using both SOC with an option for overground gait training for the same amount of time showed that the exoskeleton allowed therapists to increase the dose of gait training without increasing the duration of inpatient rehabilitation. The study also showed that early intervention with this type of gait training promotes brain plasticity that may lead to greater functional improvements and more lasting effects when combined with SOC training.


* For More Information, Contact:

Julie Kiefer, Public Relations

(801) 597-4258

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