We research: Robot-assisted gait rehabilitation
Robotics is used widely in the rehabilitation sector in the Satakunta region. Gait rehabilitation is one of the interesting and growing areas of robotics. Typically, gait rehabilitation is used when a person's ability to walk has declined due to a neurological disease. The goal of the gait rehabilitation can be regaining the ability to walk, maintaining the current ability, or slowing down the decline of the ability to walk.
A particularly interesting target group is patients who have experienced a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), as around 20 000 Finns suffer a stroke or a cerebral haemorrhage every year. The use of robotics in the rehabilitation of a CVA patient is of particular interest because it can create a high number of repetitions for walking that are required for brain recovery. Robots, usually called exoskeletons, that support retraining a patient to walk are changing the way a physiotherapist works. As is usually the case with robotics, in this area of application the robot (exoskeleton) is to perform heavy, repetitive work and the physiotherapist controls the exoskeleton’s functions from a therapy perspective. Instead of doing physical work, a physiotherapist can focus their skills on assessing the quality of walking, and instructing and assisting the patient.
SAMK has been researching robot-assisted walking rehabilitation using a lower limb exoskeleton with the region's work-life partners since 2019. Of particular interest are the effectiveness of exoskeleton training in different patient groups, and the development of technology for measuring the effects of gait rehabilitation together with the University of Tampere.
The research started with a literature review and piloting of exoskeleton rehabilitation with patients from the region's work-life partners. The next phase of the research is an efficacy study specifically for CVA patients. The focus is on holistic effects on well-being rather than just researching walking. The research connects to the development of new measurement technology, which launched in 2021.
The research will generate scientific evidence supporting the usability and effects of robot-assisted gait rehabilitation in different patient groups. This will help to consider the individual needs of a patient by tailoring a specific rehabilitation process. The ultimate goal is to improve patients' ability to function and achieve effective rehabilitation. Because of the research, the capacity of partners to adopt the new technologies will improve. This is a prerequisite for the emergence of new types of services. The research will also lead to new, broader types of service models for the development of technology-assisted services. Research has also opened up new international collaborations and reformed teaching, as well as being the stimulus for the production of publications and new research topics. In particular, it has led to the development of a new type of measurement technology to assess the effectiveness of gait rehabilitation.
Did you know?
- Thanks to Pepper (the humanoid robot) for opening doors to this research! Pepper’s “cute” appearance has led welfare professionals to take steps toward the RoboAI lab. Going one-step further, they want to start exploring robotics (exoskeletons), which has a much stronger demonstrated potential in healthcare.
- Exoskeleton gait rehabilitation might imply some indirect effects on well-being, such as improved bowel and bladder function in paraplegic patients and better overall mood.
- Exoskeletons are available as personal assistive devices.
- The research has already involved five patients from public and private partners, and it has increased interaction between professionals both in the region and internationally.
- The research combines the expertise of many disciplines and has created new possibilities, such as developing new measurement technologies for objective measurement of brain functioning.
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