For people with parapalegia, the promise of companies developing powered exoskeletons that will afford them a new level of independence is not just with movie entertainment. Parker Hannifin Corporation, the global leader in motion and control technologies, is developing a new powered orthosis called Indego.
Indego allows users to stand and walk on all surfaces including stairs and gain access to areas not accessible via a wheelchair. Originally developed by a team of engineers at Vanderbilt University, the device is being evaluated at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, one of the leading hospitals for spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation in the United States. Early feedback on the new device has been overwhelmingly positive.
Offering people with paralysis the opportunity to stand up and walk
Parker Hannifin's Vice President and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Craig Maxwell was recently interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper about our Indego® exoskeleton technology. Parker is leveraging its position as a leader in motion and control technology to create solutions that improve the human condition.
How real is 'Elysium'? The true technology behind exoskeletons http://t.co/yjL5naZT4n— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) August 13, 2013
A breakthrough in form and function
Two other companies are already marketing exoskeletons for clinical use. The Shepherd Center is the only clinic to have tested these devices and Indego. Based on its evaluation, there are some distinct advantages to the Parker device:
- the degree to which the device promotes independence because it is lighter, smaller and incorporates a modular design for easy transport
- the amount of robotic assistance which adjusts automatically for users who have some muscle control in their legs
- it is the only wearable exoskeleton that incorporates functional electrical stimulation (FES), a proven rehabilitation technology
"We are confident that we can improve the lives of people who experience mobility challenges. We believe the technology developed at Vanderbilt is far superior in terms of both design and functional performance."
-Craig Maxwell, Vice President and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Parker Hannifin
Indego provides a remarkably intuitive, smooth operation, which better replicates a natural gait for maximum effectiveness as a therapeutic tool. The exoskeleton can provide 100% of the power and support required to walk and can adjust the amount of robotic assistance (power) it provides for users who have some muscle control in their legs.
This technology makes it ideal for persons with complete spinal cord injuries, as well as
- incomplete spinal cord injuries
- multiple sclerosis
- traumatic brain injury
- other neurological conditions
Indego is the only wearable robot that incorporates FES, a proven rehabilitation technology. FES applies small electrical pulses to muscles, causing them to contract and relax. FES can improve strength in the legs of people with incomplete paraplegia and can improve circulation, prevent loss of bone density and reduce muscle atrophy for complete paraplegics.
Indego can also provide a number of potential physiological and psychological benefits. Understanding how the device can impact issues such as skin care, blood pressure, spasticity and functional progression are important to the future refinement of the exoskeleton as Parker targets a commercial launch in 2015.
Indego weighs just 27 lbs which is nearly 50% lighter than other exoskeletons. The device also has a slim profile, no footplates and no bulky backpack components, enabling a user to wear the device while sitting in their own wheelchair. Indego is designed to be worn with an off-the-shelf lightweight ankle-foot-orthosis (AFO) to stabilize the foot. Its modular design allows it to be assembled and dis-assembled easily allowing for ease of transportation. These advantages provide an unprecedented degree of independence.
“This is an extremely exciting new technology,”
- Clare Hartigan, a physical therapist at the Shepherd Center.
Parker and Shepherd Center will be demonstrating Indego® at several upcoming events:
- ASCIP (American Spinal Cord Injury Professionals) Annual Meeting September 2 - 4 Las Vegas, NV
- REHACARE International September 25 - 28 Dusseldorf, Germany
- ACRM (American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine) Annual Conference November 12 - 16 Orlando, FL