Physical therapists detailed how a dynamic body-weight support system was used in the rehabilitation of a cancer patient.

At the recent 2023 American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Combined Sections Meeting, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center physical therapists Carolyn Miller, DPT, and Hillary Jacobson, DPT, presented on a case study that showed benefits in utilizing body-weight support training as part of a cancer patient’s rehabilitation program.

A dynamic body-weight support system (DBWS), in use at Roswell Park since 2017, is a harness system connected to the ceiling on a track, providing a safer environment for patients because it provides support and fall prevention if they lose their balance or stability during activity.

Roswell Park’s physical therapists use this system to help patients work on everyday activities like walking, sitting and climbing stairs.

The case Miller and Jacobson will be highlighed details the rehabilitation program of an adult male inpatient in treatment for lymphoma. Following complications from an allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant and a stay in the intensive care unit, the man used the DBWS system alongside traditional physical therapy during his nearly-four-month stay.

The Roswell Park rehabilitation experts observed several beneficial outcomes with this technology, such as encouraging early mobility, ability for high-repetition training and improved safety for both therapists and patients.

The lymphoma patient transitioned from 50% body-weight support on parallel bars to a two-wheel walker with no body-weight support.

“We were pleased to demonstrate that a body-weight support system can help even inpatients receiving complex treatments for a hematological malignancy,” said Miller.

Roswell Park’s Rehabilitation Services team offers inpatient and outpatient services specifically designed for cancer patients and survivors of all ages. Physical therapists help to address the many effects of cancer and treatment.

“We believe Roswell Park is the only cancer center in the country utilizing this dynamic body-weight support system,” said Bryan Wittmeyer, MS, PT, director of rehabilitation services and wellness at Roswell Park, a co-author on the case study. “We challenge ourselves to look at every option for not just improving rehab outcomes for our own patients, but also setting the standard for the future of acute-care rehabilitation for cancer patients.”

Photo courtesy of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center