Robotic Exoskeleton Aims to Aid Recovery from Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

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Thanks to the help of a new robotic exoskeleton created by Rice University, patients suffering from incomplete spinal cord injuries may have a tool to accelerate recovery for mobility issues related to the forearm and wrist.

According to Discovery News, professional motocross racer Randy Childers could walk, but had significant difficulty turning over a card after his crash a year ago.

The newly dubbed “RiceWrist” has helped him recover much of the strength and functionality in his wrists and hands since he began his trial with the new tool.

The RiceWrist fulfills a need other robotic devices were unable to help

Other robotic devices had been used for the shoulder and elbow in the past, but there was limited literature on the use of robotics for spinal cord injuries.

The exoskeleton device retrains motor neuron pathways in the arm to speed up recovery of mobility.

The RiceWrist is designed specifically to target the distal joints in the arm and contains sensors to detect the patient’s movement while wearing the device.

Therapy with RiceWrist is targeted and specialized for each patient

Childers, the only complete trial so far, had to perform tasks linked to a computer to hit a target on the screen by moving a specific way. He stopped his other therapy regimen to work with the RiceWrist for two weeks straight. By the end of his trial, his right hand had gotten faster and his left was able to perform many more tasks.

The RiceWrist can be adjusted by the physical therapist overseeing the exercise to offer assistance or resistance to the patient as needed to aid recovery.

Second trial with 10 other patients aims for significant conclusions

The team has just begun another trial with 10 patients who will work with the RiceWrist several days per week for four weeks.

The goal for this trial is to have statistically significant results on the device’s effectiveness.

Eventually, researchers hope the use of robotics for rehabilitation will be widely available to patients with spinal cord injuries.

Are you interested in helping people with spinal cord injuries learn about new innovations? Please read about our Will2Walk volunteer opportunities to learn more.

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