What conditions are suitable for exoskeleton rehabilitation?

The exoskeleton is used for patients with neurological disorders (diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system). The main conditions treated are below, however many other conditions causing weakness of the lower limbs may be treated using the exoskeleton.

  • Stroke: Hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body) and Hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body)
  • Spinal cord injury: Level C7 or below (refers to region along spinal cord affected, C7 is an area located just below the neck)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Guillain-Barre
  • Acquired brain injury (brain damage caused by events after birth)
What is an Ekso GT exoskeleton?

An Ekso GT exoskeleton is a wearable robotic device that improves and reinforces walking for a patient that has lower limb (leg) weakness or paralysis resulting from a variety of conditions. The Ekso Bionics exoskeleton can be used to provide assistance in walking where the patient requires it or it can be used for a patient that has lost total ability to walk. The patient must meet certain requirements in order to use the device.

Who is eligible for exoskeleton rehabilitation?

Patients must meet the following criteria in order to be able to use the exoskeleton:

  • Elbows and shoulders must be able to support crutches or a walker
  • Ability to stand using a frame or standing support
  • The patient must have healthy bone density (amount of bone mineral in bone tissue)
  • Hip width and leg segment lengths are within the range of adjustability of the device (height range approximately 5’ to 6’3’’)
  • Skeleton does not have any unhealed fractures (inability for a broken bone to heal due to lack of blood blow and/or stability)
  • Weight does not exceed 100kg
How might exoskeleton walking help me?

Benefits will vary from user to user but may include improved exercise tolerance, improved bone health, improved bladder and bowel function, reduced pain, improved walking ability, improved sense of well-being and quality of life. The effects differ for all users.

I would like to try it – What do I need to do?

You can contact the service via email exoskeleton@dcu.ie and they will be able to guide you. You will need to answer some pre-screen questions to establish your suitability. You will then be required to get your GP to sign a form clearing you to be assessed by the team here. The assessment done by the team here will establish if you would be safe to use the suit and a trial of the suit would happen at that stage.

Where do I go for my exoskeleton walking session?

Walking sessions will take place in House 19 (school of Health and Human Performance) which is adjacent to the sports hall on DCU’s Glasnevin campus. If driving, it is easier to access the sports centre via Ballymun road entrance. Users should enter the DCU sports facility and check in at reception desk inside the doors. The reception desk team will then let the Exoskeleton team know you are here. The reception team will not be in a position to answer questions about the Exoskeleton service or your suitability. Once you have checked in somebody will come collect you from reception and address any questions you have at that stage.

Where can I park? Is there wheelchair parking?

There are 2 wheelchair accessible spaces available nearby. If you follow the road around from the sports centre entrance, they can be accessed by entering from the Ballymun road entrance and they are just passed the sports centre entrance on the left.

A map to get to the two parking spaces:

If you are a member of DCU sports, the sports centre car park can be seen on the map at the following link: www.dcu.ie/estates/parking.shtml#staff-student

This link also includes information on rates in the multi-story car park which can only be accessed via Collins Avenue entrance and has further WC accessible spaces.

Can I take public Transport?

Public transport options can be found on the DCU website here: www.dcu.ie/info/public_transport.shtml

What should I wear?

Trousers are preferable to shorts or a skirt/dress and trainers would be ideal. Shoes with a heel or boots should be avoided and it is not possible to walk barefoot.

What should I expect in my first session?

The assessment will take place on a plinth and there is no hoist available so you must be able to complete a transfer from chair to plinth AND chair to chair with a transfer board and assistance of max two persons. The first session will comprise assessment and a short walk in the exoskeleton – no more than 10 minutes walking. It will be very important to check your skin afterwards particularly if you have poor sensation.

Should I bring someone with me?

It can be helpful to have somebody with you depending on your level of ability. If you need assistance of two persons to transfer, we will NOT always be able to provide a second person but our team are experienced in complex transfers and once we know in advance we should be able to provide the assistance.

What should I expect after the session?

If this is your first time walking or standing in a long time it may feel quite unusual but if you have any of the following symptoms you can call us and ask for assurances or if severe or in any doubt then seek medical attention:

  • Symptoms of autonomic dysreflexia (Spinal Cord Injury Only)
  • Dizzyness or light headedness that doesn’t resolve
  • Pain
  • Increased spasticity
  • Skin abrasions or marking that are NOT blanching

Ordinarily there should be no issues after the session, and you should be fine to go home on your own afterwards.

How many sessions will I be able to access?

At present, we will not have capacity to provide walking in the suit for everybody on a regular basis so it will likely be blocks of sessions 2-4 per week for a fixed number of weeks. As our knowledge of the benefits of regular walking in the suit improve, we will likely adapt a recommendation for each user depending on that individuals needs and the needs of the service.  For more information, visit: www.eksobionics.com