ReWalk and Ekso Demo for Aspire Law at Hobbs Rehab Event
Recently, the Aspire Law team were treated to an excellent presentation and user demonstration from Hobbs Rehabilitation on the latest exoskeleton technology. The event was held at Aspire Law’s new office in Chandler’s Ford.
Amy Dennis-Jones and Kirsty Cook, physiotherapists from Hobbs, were accompanied by two end users - Georgia and Richard, both with spinal cord injury (SCI). Georgia (T8 injury) demonstrated the Esko Bionics device, whilst Richard (C7 injury) showed us the ReWalk.
These incredible machines could one day be prolific in medicine - but they weren’t always intended to be used to help people move again.
A Brief History of Powered Exoskeletons
Exoskeletons aren’t a new idea - but using them for medical purposes is a relatively recent development. Military applications were first considered in the 1960s, when Cornell University and General Electric began separately developing two very different, but equally impractical powered suits for soldiers.
Science-fiction films have depicted powered exoskeletons dozens of times - from the realistic, utilitarian devices in Aliens and Elysium to the fantastical superhero gear in Iron Man.
In all of these films, the technology is weaponised in one way or another - and that’s still largely true. Partnered with the private sector, the United States’ military has invested decades in powered exoskeleton technology to make troops stronger, faster, more mobile and able to carry more weight.
The medical application of exoskeleton technology may be relatively new, but it’s one of the most exciting prospects of the technology, especially for people who have sustained a spinal cord injury.
Japanese robotics firm Cyberdyne (not to be confused with the fictional company of the same name) first led the way in 1997, with the first assistive exoskeleton for medicine - HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb). Early offers were put in from the South Korean military for funding, but Cyberdyne wanted to avoid any military applications.
Cyberdyne aren’t the only ones focused on civilians - Ekso and ReWalk both entered the fray in the early 2000s to focus solely on civilian applications.
ReWalk Robotics is entirely medically focused, while Ekso works on exoskeleton technology for construction and heavy application, as well as medical.
ReWalk, Ekso and Spinal Cord Injury
ReWalk offers two distinct and specialised powered exoskeletons; Personal and Rehabilitation.
The Personal Exoskeleton is designed for everyday use - It allows users with reduced lower body mobility, due to a spinal cord injury, a stroke or disease, to walk using crutches by shifting weight from one side to the other.
The Rehabilitation Exoskeleton is for clinical use, physical therapy and training. The user interface allows physicians to closely monitor and control parameters for the user.
Ekso has several models intended for use in construction and manufacturing in its EksoWorks lineup - but the focus application is medical, where the EksoGT leads the way. Designed for patients, physicians and trainers, the EksoGT incorporates a holistic approach to rehabilitation and mobility.
Exoskeletons are Being Seen More and More
Aside the obvious benefit of assisting ambulation, clients often report improved mood, bladder/bowel function and reduced spasticity and spasms. As the technology has advanced, Aspire Law has seen an increase in the numbers of cases where the costs of bionics are recoverable under the claim.
Contact Aspire Law
Aspire Law consider this technology in every case. In the future, it may prove suitable for all Aspire Law clients. For more information about the technology used in our clients’ cases and how we have been able to help them with our spinal cord injury legal advice, see our case studies here or get in touch on 0800 030 20 40.