Huntington Memorial Hospital announced that it has become the first hospital in Southern California – and only the third in the 11 western states – to offer an incredible new technology that enables people with lower-extremity paralysis or weakness to stand and walk.
"What we are witnessing is truly the best of what science, engineering and medicine have to offer," said Sunil Hegde, M.D, medical director of the hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. “Together we are helping people rethink current physical limitations and achieve the remarkable."
Patients are able to walk with the assistance of Ekso™, a ready-to-wear, battery-powered bionic suit – or exoskeleton - that is strapped over the user’s clothing. With the patient providing the balance and proper body positioning, Ekso allows patients to walk while a physical therapist uses the control pad to program the desired walking parameters, such as step length and speed, as well as control when the Ekso stands, sits, and takes a step. It is powered by two high-capacity lithium batteries which drive the hip and knee motors.
"With the aid of the Ekso remote control, one of our physical therapists helps teach the patient when to take a step, how to position their body for proper balance, and how to shift their weight in preparation to take another step,” said Dr. Hedge. “The physical therapist also has the ability to modify the walking pattern -- step speed and length -- as the patient progresses."
Ekso can be adjusted to fit most people between 512" and 6’2” who weigh 220 pounds or less. The user needs arm function and adequate upper extremity strength to manage crutches or a walker. An experienced user can transfer to/from their wheelchair and put on or off the Ekso in less than five minutes. The torso and leg straps are designed to enable the user/patient to easily get in and out of the device with none or minimal assistance. The learning curve is user specific and usually individuals begin using a walker and progress to crutches.
The addition of the Ekso technology to Huntington Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center was made possible through the generosity of a challenge gift from donors Carol &Harry Tsao and Renata & Talmadge O'Neill. They made their donation in honor of their families' philanthropic legacies. Tsao and Talmadge are co-founders of Mezi Media and are investors in Ekso Bionics.
So as to encourage other people to support these much-needed services, Tsao and Talmadge have agreed to match dollar for dollar other community donations to the hospital’s Neuroscience Program. "We are deeply grateful to these wonderful families for their support of important and life-changing care within our walls," said Dr. Hedge.
“While this technology is currently used only in rehabilitation centers, we join with Ekso in looking forward to the day when people will be able to utilize this technology on the sidewalks or in shopping malls,” said Dr. Hedge. "Since the robotic suit is self-contained robotic and not tethered to a power supply, why not dream big?"