The University of Washington Medical Center has launched the Spinal Cord Injury ReWalk Exoskeleton Walking Program. This is a pilot program to provide individuals with paraplegic spinal cord injury/dysfunction the experience of robotic-assisted ambulation using the ReWalk Robotic Exoskeleton.
What is ReWalk?
The ReWalk Robotic Exoskeleton is a reciprocating lower limb wearable orthosis with powered hip and knee joints developed by ReWalk Robotics (previously Argo Medical Technologies). It consists of a bracing system worn as a suit with four independent DC motors at the hips and knees, a backpack containing a rechargeable battery, and a computer-based control system. ReWalk uses operator movements to control the step pattern and cadence. Sensors within the system detect various parameters, including upper body/trunk-activated triggering of either stance or leg advancement. The exoskeleton is typically used with two forearm crutches. It has the capability to assist with sit-to-stand, stand-to-sit, static standing, and level walking.
ReWalk received FDA approval for institutional use and training in 2011, and recently obtained FDA approval in 2014 for its consumer product.
ReWalk at UWMC
The UWMC program’s goal is to provide individuals with incomplete and complete paraplegia the opportunity to experience walking with this exoskeleton technology. In addition, the program provides the necessary experience for individuals who may be considering the purchase of a personal use system.
Training on the ReWalk device consists of 3–5 physical therapy treatment sessions a week, up to a total of 15-24 sessions, at UWMC outpatient Physical Therapy.
Currently, there are no other clinical programs offering training specifically using the FDA-approved ReWalk system in Washington State.
Who is eligible for evaluation to participate in ReWalk at UWMC?
Individuals with complete or incomplete paraplegia and:
- Injury level of T4 (upper chest region) or below (people with slightly higher levels of injury will be evaluated on an individual basis)
- Age 18 or older
- Unable to walk
- Weight no greater than 220 lbs.
- Healthy bone density and no active fractures
- Good tolerance for standing
- Excellent range of motion (flexibility) at the hips, knees, and ankles
- No other medical problems that would interfere with safe use of the technology
Medical and physical therapy assessments will be performed and radiologic imaging requested.
Currently, participation in this program cannot be billed to insurance, and it is the responsibility of the participant to pay for the treatment sessions. However, private donors have made a limited number of scholarships for individuals found eligible for assistance.
For information about this program:
Contact UWMC Rehab Clinic at 206-598-0058 (FAX 206-598-2813).