Few appreciate the intense processing that goes on in your brain and spine in order to walk. To a healthy individual, this process if effortless. On the other hand, patients suffering from stroke, spinal cord injury, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease, often have a hard time walking. A popular therapy, BWSTT (body-weight supported treadmill traning) attempts to retrain a patient’s mind and muscles to walk properly.
Previously this type of therapy required up to three physical therapists, at once supporting and moving various limbs for a patient. This is the problem that the AutoAmbulator, an automated BWSTT device, attempts to address. From HealthSouth’s website:
How does the AutoAmbulator work?
The patient is fitted with a special harness and suspended above a treadmill by an overhead hoist. Robotic arms are then strapped to the patient’s legs at the thigh and ankle, which move the legs in a natural walking pattern. A computer system operated by the therapist controls the device through a touch screen panel or a remote control.
What makes the AutoAmbulator unique for this type of therapy?
BWSTT therapy is labor intensive, often requiring more than two or three therapists to support the patient and manually move his or her legs. Because of this, rehabilitation centers find it difficult to perform BWSTT often and only do so for a limited number of patients. The AutoAmbulator, using sophisticated robotics, automates this therapy, allowing patients to experience a smooth, natural human gait for as long as the therapy is well tolerated and practical.
Is it safe?
The AutoAmbulator is the result of years of research and development and was designed to perform BWSTT therapy in a totally safe environment. Numerous features are incorporated into the device to provide the patient and the therapist a safe, controlled experience. HealthSouth received permission from the FDA to use the AutoAmbulator in March 2002.