Key preliminary research findings from West Orange, NJ-based Kessler Foundation’s clinical study of the wearable robotic exoskeletal device, the Ekso, took center stage on Sept 3 during the meeting of the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals, at the Rio Suites, Las Vegas, Nev. Kessler reports that Gail Forrest, PhD, its assistant director of human performance and engineering research, presented the Ekso research data during the meeting. 

Forrest emphasizes that the Foundation’s initial search results, “are promising for the potential application of Ekso-associated walking in rehabilitation, in exercise/wellness programs, in the community and for home use.” Forrest’s work also expands beyond the mechanics of how paralysis patients stand and walk in the device to assess the device’s impact on patients’ hearts, muscles, and lungs. 

During the meeting, Forrest shared data collected in 13 patients with SCI. These patients included 12 individuals with paraplegia and one individual with tetraplegia. The results suggest that walking and standing with Ekso is feasible for individuals with a range of spinal cord disorders that cause paraplegia. The results also indicate that patients with higher levels of SCI may benefit from the device as well, however these patients would require more time to learn Ekso-assisted walking.

Positive results and progress were also reported in Ekso-assisted training sessions, specifically in walking speed and distance, fluidity, and gait and balance.  The results suggest that the improvements occurred following changes from resting to standing position, increasing further with changes from standing to walking. To confirm these improvements, Forrest reports that she compared the response of a patient skilled at Ekso-assisted walking after 30 sessions of training with those of a novice walker. The skilled walker exhibited oxygen consumption that returned to baseline much faster than the novice, suggesting the device’s training effect. Forrest cautions that the results are, “only preliminary data. The mechanisms underlying these responses need further investigation. These findings are indicative of potential benefits for the heart, lungs, and the circulation, an important finding in this high risk population.”

Patients also reportedly exhibited increased muscle firing in the lower leg muscles during Ekso-assisted walking. Forrest calls for further research in order to assess the potential health benefits of this muscle activity.

Source: Kessler Foundation