In December 2014, Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital acquired the ReWalk™ Exoskeleton Robotic system – a first-of-its-kind technology in the greater Capital Region and one of only a few in New York State – that helps paraplegics and individuals with lower limb disabilities such as spinal cord injuries walk again.
The ReWalk™ Exoskeleton Robotic suit uses patented technology with motorized legs that power the knee and hip movements. A computer-based system with motion sensors controls movement in response to subtle changes in upper body movements and shifts in balance. A harness around the patient’s waist and trunk keeps the suit in place, while crutches are used for stability. A backpack carries the computer system and battery that powers the suit. When a forward tilt of the upper body is sensed by the system, it triggers the first step, while repeated shifting of the body generates a sequence of steps to allow natural and efficient walking without the need for tethers. The system mimics the natural gait pattern of an able-bodied person and provides functional walking speed for standing, walking and turning.
“The ReWalk Exoskeleton system is truly revolutionary technology that helps liberate paraplegics and patients with spinal cord injuries,” points out Lynne Nicolson, MD, chief medical officer for Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital, “With ReWalk, patients have the ability to stand upright and walk again, which is a remarkable step forward in their rehabilitation and recovery. In addition, it has been found to provide many benefits to paraplegic patients, including weight bearing/bone density, improved bladder and bowel function, changes in lean body mass as well as improved mood/decreased depression.”
Although there are several robotic exoskeletons for use within rehabilitation facilities, the ReWalk Exoskeleton is the first and currently the only one to receive FDA approval for a home unit. The ReWalk was developed in Israel by Dr. Amit Goffer, who became a quadriplegic in 1997. He began prototyping it in his garage as he recognized the need for people with paralysis to be able to be up and walking. The ReWalk Exoskeleton is designed and has approval to be utilized with complete or incomplete spinal cord injury patients, from level T4 (thoracic level) and below.