Canadian University Studying Use of Exoskeletons Immediately Following SCIs

Previous studies have examined the benefits of using exoskeletons months or years after an injury, but researchers at the University of Calgary, Canada, are conducting a study to determine whether people with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) may benefit from using exoskeletons earlier in their treatment. The year-long study, which begins this summer, will include between five and ten patients from Calgary. It will attempt to establish if treatment is safe and feasible in the days and weeks after an SCI, and if the earlier treatment promotes recovery. The study will be followed by larger studies involving more patients.

"The first nine months after a spinal cord injury are pivotal to recovery, so we want to attempt to introduce rehabilitation and mobilization early on and see if it makes a difference," says lead investigator Chester Ho, MD, associate professor in the university's Cumming School of Medicine Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the O'Brien Institute for Public Health.

Participants in the study will receive 60-minute therapy sessions with an Ekso Bionics exoskeleton two to three times a week, for a total of 25 training hours over an eight- to ten-week period. Safety and feasibility outcomes will be monitored and tracked by the research team throughout the sessions.

Editor's note: This story was adapted from materials provided by the University of Calgary.