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Glenrose expands use of exoskeleton robot therapy

November 21, 2017

EDMONTON — Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital is expanding the use of a wearable robot that enables a person with lower extremity weakness to stand up and walk.

The Ekso GT™ exoskeleton measures the wearer’s shifts in balance, weight and posture, and motors in the suit’s knees and hips auto-adjust to deliver the right amount of power that’s needed to walk. The technology now offers new features enabling therapists to isolate a specific leg, lessen the amount of assistance the suit provides, and add resistance. These new functions have led to new therapies for adult patients and potential opportunities to help pediatric patients.

“As our Glenrose team becomes further trained with the Ekso and the programming advances, we’re able to expand the kinds of patients we’re helping,” says Vickie Buttar, the hospital’s Rehabilitation Technology Leader, Physical Therapy. “We use it with patients who are relearning to walk and, with new features, we have broader applications. We can use it to strengthen patients’ legs, improve balance and increase endurance.”

When the Ekso was introduced to the hospital three years ago, it was used in early mobilization for adult patients with stroke, and spinal or brain injuries. The technology is now being tested with pediatric patients.

Hussein Alhussainy was one of the first pediatric patients to start using the Ekso earlier this year, as a part of his therapy for cerebral palsy.

“Not only does it allow me to walk, but it helps with my posture and guides me on how to walk,” says the 16-year-old Edmonton resident. “It makes you put in the work for your therapy, and if you can’t, it assists you.”

The Glenrose team is collaborating with other intuitions using the Ekso and pooling information and outcomes on Ekso treatments to better inform therapists.

“It’s exciting to share information and ideas with other facilities about how the Ekso can be used and the patients it can benefit,” says Buttar. “It’s new technology, so our knowledge is still growing on how to implement its use for the best patient outcomes – how it’s used, how much it’s used, and how often it’s used.”

Ryan Nicoll, 31, was using the Ekso as part of his rehabilitation from a spinal cord injury when the new features were introduced. Therapists were able to extend his Ekso therapy and increase his strength and endurance.

“I feel like my therapy is further along thanks to the Ekso,” says the resident of Mannville, 170 km east of Edmonton. “When I started therapy, I was walking a little bit but I’m walking almost full time now. The Ekso is a great tool that has helped me tremendously.”

More than 80 patients at the Glenrose have used the Ekso during their rehabilitation.

The Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation and its donors raised the funds to purchase the Ekso and support the launch of the program.

“Through the support of our Circle of Courage donor club, more than $320,000 was invested in bringing the Ekso exoskeleton to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital,” says Wendy Dugas, President and CEO of the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation.

“Our donors continue to be outstanding contributors to quality healthcare delivered at the hospital and we are proud to partner with them and the hospital to fund leading-edge technology and innovation.”

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Shelly Willsey
AHS Communications