Robotic Device May Give Wheelchair Patients Chance to Walk Again

9 February 2010 (Last Updated February 9th, 2010 18:30)

A robotic device that gives wheelchair-bound paraplegic patients the chance to walk again is being tested at a Philadelphia rehab hospital in the US. ReWalk, developed by Argo Technologies in Israel, consists of a backpack, an upper body harness and leg supports that are fitted with mo

A robotic device that gives wheelchair-bound paraplegic patients the chance to walk again is being tested at a Philadelphia rehab hospital in the US.

ReWalk, developed by Argo Technologies in Israel, consists of a backpack, an upper body harness and leg supports that are fitted with motorised knees and hips and allows a partially paralysed person to stand, walk and even climb stairs.

The wearer's upper body controls the movement of the leg supports with crutches, while motion connected to a backpack computer lets the device know when a step should be taken, nydailynews.com reports.

ReWalk features software that understands what the patient is intending to do, and translates that into taking a step or climbing a stair.

The battery of the device lasts for three hours and the backup lasts for another 20 minutes, with automatic alerts if the battery is running low.

MossRehab Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation's Dr Alberto Esquenazi said ReWalk would be able to be applied widely to people with spinal cord injuries that have preserved the use of the arms.

"You need to have your arms, for balance control and sensory feedback. The tip of the crutches provides sensory feedback about where your body is in space," Esquenazi said.

ReWalk is being tested on 14 people at Moss Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, US.