Portable exoskeleton, a breakthrough in paediatric therapies

The world’s first portable exoskeleton can be found in Spain. At Sant Joan de Déu Children’s Hospital in Barcelona, to be precise. It is used to treat children with neuromuscular problems, improve their quality of life and delay physical after effects, such as loss of strength and mobility.

The portable exoskeleton will improve the quality of life of children with neuromuscular problems

Exoskeletons represent a major breakthrough in neurological rehabilitation and recovery of the nervous system. For people with reduced mobility due to brain damage, this technology enables them to walk independently, improving their aerobic capacity and reducing problems such as spasticity and muscle atrophy, among others.

This portable exoskeleton has been designed to support paediatric therapies. The device consists of long supports that fit and adapt to the patient’s legs and trunk. In the joints, motors imitate the functioning of the muscle and provide the necessary strength to stand and walk. Attachment to the body of the child is such that there is a perfect interaction between the person, who provides the cognitive aspect, and the robot, which provides the motor element.

The hospital’s physiotherapy and occupational therapy departments can design weekly training plans for paediatric patients with brain damage to enable them to begin walking using the portable exoskeleton. Specialists can monitor several parameters through the device. This makes it possible for them to determine whether the quality of life of the patient is improving. Also whether the child is tolerating continued use well and if the physical after effects decrease.

The portable exoskeleton enables them to walk independently and improve their aerobic capacity

At first, this portable exoskeleton will be used in neurological rehabilitation and the recovery of the nervous system and muscle strength of children with spinal muscular atrophy. This is a genetic disease that causes a progressive loss of muscle strength. It is the second most common neuromuscular disease in childhood. It affects one in every 10,000 babies born.

The researchers who have developed this portable exoskeleton are not going to leave it there. Marsi Bionics, a spin-off from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and the engineering company Escribano are working on a new device designed specifically for other neuromuscular diseases. Its particular goal is to create a new model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This is the most common neuromuscular disease in childhood.

In addition, as the researchers point out, the use of devices such as the portable exoskeleton also has a psychological component. When seeing the advances and realising that they may be able to walk after having been told that it would be impossible, the state of mind of patients considerably improves.

With these developments, Spanish research has positioned itself at the technological cutting edge. A technology that serves as a great support for both physiotherapy and occupational therapies. And will help with neurological rehabilitation and the recovery of the nervous system and muscle strength of patients with brain damage. This helps improve the quality of life of these patients. And prevents physical after effects from worsening.

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