Bionic Suit Helping Paralyzed Patients Walk Again Demonstrated at CRMC

Published 06/18 2014 06:29PM

Updated 06/19 2014 04:48PM

Staff at Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center are looking into a bionic suit that could help patients who are paralyzed or have limited use of their limbs stand up and walk as part of their physical therapy.

The Ekso Bionics suit is a wearable robot. The technology was developed in Berkley and is used all over the world.  

Step by step, the robotic suit is helping to change patients' lives. 

Wednesday, a group of physical therapists and representatives from Ekso Bionics visited CRMC to demonstrate the technology.

"Which is fully powered at the hips and at the knees, the motor joints, to allow a patient with lower limb paralysis or weakness to stand up and walk," says Susan Price, Northwest regional manager for Ekso Bionics. 

Technology like this is receiving worldwide attention.

Just last week at the World Cup, a paraplegic man literally kicked off festivities using similar technology--taking a step as millions watched in wonder.

In the Ekso Bionics suit, physical therapists help control movement until patients can regain their balance.

"Then the therapist will trigger their step. The second step is where the patient is able to trigger their own step," Price says.

As patients shift their weight, sensors activate and the patients can take a step forward.

"It definitely is an option that enables us to give them a different kind of therapy than what we've been able to in the past," says Lynne Jarman, therapy supervisor at CRMC's Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center.

To use the robotic suit, a patient needs to have functioning triceps. The rest is learned through physical therapy.

"Our physical therapists' passion and our occupational therapists' passion is really for the patient. So they see the excitement and the opportunity available that this could provide for our patients," Jarman says.

Jarman says hospital staff would love to use the technology with their patients, but it comes down to a matter of whether the hospital can afford it.

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