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New Tool for Restoring Mobility to Stroke Survivors

By Carolann Murphy, PA, Senior Writer

June 19, 2019. The application of new technology in rehabilitation research has resulted in a new tool for restoring mobility to individuals recovering from stroke. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently approved the ReStore exo-suit (ReWalk Robotics), a soft, fabric-based exoskeleton, for gait retraining for stroke survivors in rehabilitation centers. ReStore, the only soft suit approved by the FDA for stroke rehabilitation, was tested in 40 research participants at five rehabilitation research facilities, including Kessler Foundation.

Karen Nolan, PhD, senior research scientist, Center for Mobility and Rehabilitation Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation, was the principal investigator for the Foundation’s study. Dr. Nolan’s team pooled their data with that collected by colleagues at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, IL, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, MA, the MossRehab Stroke and Neurological Disease Center in Elkins Park, PA, and TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, TX.

Since 2011, Kessler Foundation scientists have been in the forefront of research into the application of robotic exoskeleton technology in rehabilitation. Ongoing research with different types of robotic devices is resulting in new ways to help people spinal cord injury and stroke regain mobility after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Dr. Nolan is encouraged by the approval of this new device, which has features that appeal to physical therapists, as well as individuals recovering from the consequences of stroke. The ReStore system consists of a soft, garment-like design connected to a waist pack that provides power to mechanical cables that allow the person’s affected leg to be lifted in synchronized timing with their natural walking pattern.

“With Restore, the ankle joint is actively assisted during walking, an important function for individuals striving to achieve a normal gait pattern,” she explained. “Restore has a relatively low profile and can be worn to train over ground or on the treadmill. The preliminary data are promising, she concluded. “We were pleased to have a role in the initial testing of this device,” she concluded. “It will be interesting to see the outcomes that can be achieved by incorporating this technology in programs for stroke rehabilitation.”