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Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals acquires robotic exoskeleton

March 12, 2018

Modern technology helps patients learn to walk again

Clinton Township, March 12, 2018 – Patients who have suffered a stroke or spinal cord injury now have access to a new wearable robotic exoskeleton as part of their rehabilitation at Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals. The Ekso GT, manufactured by Ekso Bionics, is state-of-the-art equipment designed to speed up the recovery process and offer better outcomes by getting patients back on their feet sooner. It takes some patients from being wheelchair dependent to being able to stand up and walk again. This technology is also beneficial for other neurological conditions that affect a patient’s gait.

The device assists patients who have leg weakness and fills in the gap between where the patient is currently functioning and the strength normally needed to walk, while supporting the re-learning of correct step patterns and weight shifting. Using the Ekso helps to stretch and strengthen muscles. It pushes patients to go further distances, building up to 200 to 300 steps and standing for at least half an hour. Most importantly, it helps re-teach the brain how to walk correctly.

“Having a stroke is like your brain’s computer has crashed. You forget how to do simple things. The Ekso GT technology is equivalent to re-writing the program in your brain that tells your body how to walk,” said Henry Ford Macomb physical therapist Ron Angeles.

The ability for the brain to re-organize and re-learn after damage is the basis for this technology. By guiding the body into the proper movement patterns, it guides the brain to build the correct blueprints. The patients can then use these blueprints to walk with less difficulty, less assistance and a more fluid gait pattern after training with this exoskeleton.

It also significantly reduces the physical demand usually placed on the therapist when working with this population of patients, making it much safer for the patient and therapist.

Henry Ford Macomb is one of only a few places in Michigan to offer the Ekso GT. The value of the equipment and four years of service, a gift to the hospital from a private donor, is $200,000.

"We were excited to receive this generous gift that has advanced the standard of care offered by our rehabilitation program," said Marty Beaulac, regional director of Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Services. “We’re confident that it will help many patients to regain their strength, mobility and independence as part of a complete rehabilitation plan.”

For more information, call (586) 263-2481.