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Will robotic exoskeletons help paralysis patients move again?

posted Nov 16, 2020, 3:04 PM by Dr. Curtis Cripe

Medicine is approaching science fiction territory. Any sci-fi geek will get excited at the idea of specialists augmenting their bodies with robotics should they get paralyzed. Exoskeletons, basically robotic frameworks that will allow human bodies to ride in them, will do the moving for paraplegics.
Usually, spinal cord injuries reduces the quality of life of patients and meant a lifetime of moving using a wheelchair. Now some companies like ReWalk are engineering exoskeletons that will allow spinal cord injury sufferers with more mobility options. ReWalk has been producing these robotic frames for more than 4 years, after the Food and Drug Administration approved their product in 2016.

Exoskeletons enabled patients to go upright and prevent the side effects of laying prone all the time like bed sores, urinary tract infections, and worse, sepsis. Unfortunately, patients must still have control of their arms and hands for them to be viable candidates for the device. Another caveat for the tech is that it’s still largely viewed as experimental, so not all insurers will cover it. The only one to do it so far is the Office of Veteran Affairs.

Patients who can wear the exoskeleton will require training to be able to control it properly. Right now, training centers are limited and, again, only the military has been expanding the presence of these training facilities and mainly for injured veterans.

Since the tech itself is barely five years old, we’re sure exoskeleton use for paraplegics will find adoption in many areas of the world soon.

Dr. Curtis Cripe is currently working with other experts and specialists in a committee created by the White House and NASA to form protocols and procedures for TeleHealth and TeleMedicine during COVID-19. Outside of this official business, Dr. Curtis Cripeheads the NTL Group and studies ways to improve the lives of people living with brain injuries and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.