Case Study: Various Exoskeleton Applications
During the rehabilitation of patients with traumatic brain injuries, a clinician, physical therapist, or physiatrist may utilize an exoskeleton device to aid the recovery process. Powered exoskeletons also have applications in the military, industrial, and even consumer markets. Though powered exoskeletons may be most commonly used during the acute rehabilitation of a severe traumatic brain injury, healthcare professionals often see exoskeleton usage across the continuum.
In acute rehabilitation, exoskeleton use commonly follows a set procedure. To start, the exoskeleton is often placed into a mode where the exoskeleton does the majority of work. This means that the exoskeleton does the majority of work for patients after TBI. The exoskeleton works with the user’s body in this phase and gives them time to adjust to how the exoskeleton moves and operates. In some cases, this is referred to as gait training. Quite simply, it improves the patient’s gait as they use the exoskeleton. After the patient has learned how the exoskeleton moves, the mode is changed, allowing the patient to be more active while still receiving assistance from the device as needed.
Adaptive assist mode allows patients to use as little power as they’re able. This will vary depending on the patient’s physical disability and the goals of their rehabilitation. Depending on the severity of the injury, the robotic exoskeleton might act like a fully supportive assistive device during rehabilitation.
During these steps, closely monitoring and tracking goals remains important. With exoskeleton data, it’s easier to track outcome measures such as limb and motor function, the overall rehabilitation progress, and whether the intervention or ongoing adjustments are required. While some medical professionals use exoskeletons to improve cognitive function, it often requires a multidisciplinary team to make the best use of this rapidly growing technology.