Safety of Exoskeleton-Assisted Walking in SCI Inpatient Rehabilitation

Many people who sustain spinal cord injuries (SCIs) lose some or all ability to walk. Some persons with SCI will get walking training as part of their inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. This training may be provided with a harness to support some body weight on a treadmill, or over ground with a moving frame or from a ceiling lift. Persons who have more muscle function in their legs may learn to walk with long-leg braces and crutches, and some may recover to a point where they do not require walking aids.

Wearable robots that assist with walking over ground are now available in rehabilitation centers. However, we do not know how safe it is to use these devices for rehabilitation, if they help people to walk better than with traditional walking training methods, or if they have any other effects (better or worse) on recovery.

To fill in this knowledge gap, we will enroll 45 eligible people with recent SCI who have goals for walking to test the safety and feasibility of using a wearable robot during rehabilitation following SCI. Participants will use the Ekso™, a powered exoskeleton, as part of usual rehabilitation care. Standing and walking start as soon as the clinical team determines it is safe for participants to begin, and continue until discharge from inpatient rehabilitation. We will analyze for safety (adverse events), feasibility (walking training and clinical assistance), and walking-related function (daily living).

This study may provide valuable information for making decisions about when and where to use a powered exoskeleton in inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, and may inform future research to study the treatment effects of walking with assistance from such devices. Miguel X Escalon, MD is the principal investigator of this project.

You may qualify to take part in this research study because you have an SCI, are in inpatient rehabilitation, and you have qualified for walking training. If you have any questions regarding this study please contact Andrew Delgado at  for more information.