Sufferers of lower-body paralysis (paraplegia) will soon have access to ReWalk, a motorized exoskeleton controlled by the user and enabling them to walk, sit, stand, and even climb stairs. Developed and sold by ReWalk Robitics (formerly Argo Medical Technologies), the product was approved for clinical use in the US in 2011, but will now be available for personal use throughout the country.
While many companies are racing to find treatments for patients suffering from the results of spinal cord injury (SCI), ReWalk, with its non-invasive design, is the first device of its kind available for widespread and at-home use in Europe and, as of now, in the US as well.
As Christy Foreman, of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, noted in the FDA’s release publicizing its decision, “[i]nnovative devices such as ReWalk go a long way towards helping individuals with spinal cord injuries gain some mobility.”
The ReWalk system is comprised of fitted leg braces, a back support piece, a backpack battery, motion sensors, and a digital wrist controller; users do require some upper body strength in order to don the device and use supportive walking sticks. As a user spends time using their individual device, ReWalk programming tracks and ‘learns’ their specific habits of pacing while reproducing a normal human gait to accommodate the individual user. Dr. Amit Goffer — an Israeli inventor, ReWalk’s developer, and himself a quadriplegic — noted in ReWalk’s June press release, “[t]he person walks the system, the system does not walk them. The users are in control — when they want to sit, they sit, when then want to stand and walk, they do so.”
To purchase a ReWalk, would-be users will need to meet certain criteria in a medical examination and undergo a training program to qualify themselves and a caretaker for its use. Beyond simply improving mobility and providing healthy exercise for sufferers of SCI, ReWalk also offers significant psychological benefit to its users.
“ReWalking is much more than walking,” says Jeff Dykan, ReWalk’s Chairman of the Board. “ReWalk provides paralyzed individuals with the ability to stand and walk, to look someone in the eye, to hug and be hugged. These are simple acts which many of our ReWalkers thought they would never be able to do again,” he added. “When you take that into account in addition to the health benefits, it underscores just how monumental a day this is for the SCI community here in the U.S.”
For information about accessing rehabilitation centers using ReWalk, purchasing ReWalk for personal use and pricing information, interested parties can contact ReWalk Robotics here.