Approximately 5.6 million Americans currently live with some degree of paralysis. While paralysis can occur in many ways, serious spinal cord injuries are a leading cause affecting more than 1.2 million people. Until recently, victims who suffered permanent paralysis due to spinal cord injuries had little to no hope of walking again. However, as medical science continues to make remarkable advances, there is now technology on the market that provides new hope: ReWalk, a wearable robotic exoskeleton is helping some patients regain their mobility.
What the Organization Does
The ReWalk, which provides powered hip and knee motion, is produced by ReWalk Robotics, a medical device company with offices in Massachusetts, Germany and Israel. The innovative product was created and tested in a lab in Philadelphia, and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for hospital use in 2011. The FDA approved it for private, at-home use in 2014. ReWalk is the first device of its type to receive FDA clearance for personal and rehabilitation use in the United States.
The ReWalk device offers hope to many injured victims in Florida, across the United States and around the world.
How it Works
The ReWalk is a lightweight, battery powered medical device that includes an upper body harness, a backpack and extensive lower body supports. The device has mechanical joints (hips, knees and shoulders) built directly into the body supports. Throughout the device, there are advanced motion detectors and sensors that feed information regarding position, movement and gravity to an internal computer.
The motion detectors are extremely sensitive and can detect even the most subtle changes in gravity or movement. When a user wants to take a step, the computer within ReWalk will be able to assess the desired direction and speed, then assist the person in moving. While the device is powerful enough to ‘do the work’ of walking, the user always retains full control.
Benefits of the Device
The ReWalk offers hope to many people who have suffered truly catastrophic injuries. Some of the key benefits offered by the device include:
- Quality of Life/Mental Health: Most people find that regaining their mobility is incredibly valuable. There is compelling evidence that recovering one’s own mobility, has a strong association with overall quality of life and psychological well-being.
- Physical health: Beyond the mental health benefits, the ReWalk also offers tangible physical benefits. Many paraplegics end up with weak, brittle bones as a result of their lack of ability to exercise. The ReWalk allows patients to engage bones and muscles in a way that would otherwise not be possible, thereby improving the users’ long-term physical health.
Currently, version 6.0 of the ReWalk offers benefits to paraplegics who meet certain eligibility requirements. To use the product, you must meet certain height, weight and health requirements. Most importantly, you need to be able to stand using an assistive standing frame. For some, this takes some time, though gaining the strength needed to use the product is achievable for many people.
According to the company, most users go through nearly three dozen comprehensive training sessions with physical therapists in a controlled setting before taking the device home and using it without supervision.