October 17, 2017
Within the first year after spinal cord injury many individuals list the loss of the ability to walk as the most important functional loss. This has led many to pursue the use of extensive leg bracing combined with adaptive aids such as walkers for locomotion. Yet it does not take long to discover that this form of walking is very energy consuming and thus for most it becomes mostly a form of exercise rather than truly a mode of mobility. This has led to the development of wearable exoskeletons or robots.
These exoskeletons have powered motors rather than locks, cables, springs, etc and thus greatly decrease the energy expenditure required to walk relative to traditional bracing. Yet before exoskeleton technology could be made available to the public, the companies manufacturing them had to prove to the FDA that they are safe. This indeed has been proven to the FDA of the United States for two different exoskeletons, ReWalk and Indego.
ReWalk was the first to gain FDA approval in June of 2014 and Indego followed in March of 2016. Others are still in pursuit. FDA approval is a big milestone, yet FDA approval does not mean that insurance companies will cover the cost for individuals to purchase them. Insurance coverage usually hinges on validation that the device is not only safe but also has health advantage. No exoskeleton has yet to validate this claim although several are currently in clinical trials trying to show this. As the process for the companies continues on, as an individual wanting to take advantage of this technology, you need to make sure that you maintain good skin health, good bone density, full hip, knee, and ankle range of motion, and an autonomic tolerance for standing. These are all prerequisites for using exoskeleton technology in their current form. For more information on each of the major exoskeletons or for centers that utilize this technology feel free to contact Utilize Health.