Bionic suit helps paralyzed patients stand and walk again

April 25, 2018 by Deb Song, Rush University Medical Center
Credit: Rush University Medical Center

Patients undergoing physical rehabilitation at Rush for paralyzing injuries are being aided by a robotic suit designed to help raise people to full height and walk.

Rush is the only medical center in Chicago and one of only 98 facilities in the world offering the EksoGT robotic exoskeleton device for clinical for both inpatients and outpatients.

"Being upright is an important aid to rehabilitation and eventual return to a better life for patients who have suffered , stroke and other traumatic brain injuries and are unable to walk," said Diane Genaze, director of physical therapy at Rush.

The EksoGT is a ready-to-wear, battery-powered bionic suit that is strapped over the user's clothing helping patients to stand upright and to walk.

It is powered by two high-capacity lithium batteries, which drive motors located in the hip and knee of the exoskeleton.

The patient provides the balance and proper body positioning, and the device allows patients to walk while a physical therapist uses the EksoGT's control pad to program the desired walking parameters.

The parameters include step length and speed as well as control of when the EksoGT stands, sits and takes a step. This allows the patient to initiate steps independently as they are able to balance more comfortably.

The therapist also has the ability to modify the EksoGT's walking progression as the patient improves with each clinical therapy session.

The EksoGT can be adjusted to fit most people between 5 feet 2 inches and 6 feet, 2 inches who weigh 220 pounds or less. The user must have arm function and adequate upper extremity strength to manage crutches or a walker. An experienced user can transfer to and from their wheelchair and put on or take off the EksoGT in less than five minutes.

The torso and leg straps are designed to enable the patient to easily get in and out of the device with minimal or no assistance. The learning curve is user specific. 

After therapy with the exoskeleton device, individuals usually begin using a walker and then progress to using crutches.

Developed by Ekso Bionics, a technology company based in Richmond, California, the wearable robot was named a Top 10 invention by CNN and one of the best inventions by Time magazine.

"This technology is a great addition to our and rehabilitation program," said Dr. Sheila Dugan, acting chief of Rush's division of physical medicine and rehabilitation. "We provide patients with a multidisciplinary team of experts in the field of neurorecovery."

"We also conduct research and provide education with the aim of improving the quality of life for in our region," Dugan said.

Explore further: Using ultrasound to help people walk again

Related Stories

Using ultrasound to help people walk again

April 3, 2018
Spinal cord injuries impact more than 17,000 Americans each year, and although those with incomplete injuries may regain control of their limbs, overall muscle strength and mobility is weakened. Neurorehabilitation using ...

Exoskeletons are new tool for spinal, stroke patients

June 14, 2016
Robotic technology is helping Doug Eckhoff recover from a spinal cord injury caused by a motorcycle crash that, a decade or so earlier, might have left him unable to walk.

Wearable robot can help patients walk again

October 2, 2012
A team of physical therapists strapped the robot onto him, one hit a button and with a faint electronic whir, David Ayscue was suddenly 6 feet tall again.

ReWalk receives FDA approval, clearing the way for US sales

July 2, 2014
There is good news for those suffering from spinal cord injuries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its stamp of approval to ReWalk—the exoskeleton that enables paraplegics to walk. While the device has sparked ...

Recommended for you

Surprise finding—for very sick elderly, lighter sedation won't drop risk of postoperative delirium, study suggests

August 13, 2018
Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say a study designed to see if reducing the amount of anesthesia reduces the risk of postoperative delirium in older patients surprisingly found that lighter sedation failed to do so in ...

Kidney transplant chains more effective in saving lives

August 9, 2018
New research from the UBC Sauder School of the Business has found that transplant societies which prioritize kidney transplant chains over kidney exchanges can increase the total number of transplants, thereby saving more ...

Surgical mesh implants may cause autoimmune disorders

July 31, 2018
Surgical mesh implants, often used for hernia or gynecological repair, may be the reason so many patients report symptoms of an autoimmune disorder, according to a University of Alberta rheumatologist.

Surgeons discuss options when the risks of surgery may be too high

July 27, 2018
In an essay published July 26 in the New England Journal of Medicine, Ira Leeds, M.D., research fellow, and David Efron, M.D., professor of surgery, both of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, along with their ...

Blood plasma during emergency air transport saves lives

July 25, 2018
Two units of plasma given in a medical helicopter on the way to the hospital could increase the odds of survival by 10 percent for traumatically injured patients with severe bleeding, according to the results of a national ...

The dark side of antibiotic ciprofloxacin

July 25, 2018
The use of ciprofloxacin and other antibiotics of the class of fluoroquinolones may be associated with disruption of the normal functions of connective tissue, including tendon rupture, tendonitis and retinal detachment. ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.