Exoskeleton for Walking

Using an exoskeleton for walking after weakness or paralysis has generated a lot of attention and I have had a number of patient ask me about it.  ReWalk is a battery-powered robotic exoskeleton that attaches to the legs and lower back. It contains motors at the knee and hip joints and sensors to help it adjust with each footfall. While wearing the device and holding two forearm crutches, someone with complete lower-limb paralysis can walk.

Exoskeletons have sparked hope for those with paralysis.  Using an exoskeleton for walking seems like a dream come true, but, sadly for most the technology is still out of reach. The cost is prohibitive and health insurers generally don’t cover the expensive equipment. The ReWalk System costs, on average, $81,000. Ottobock’s C-Brace is priced at $75,000. And the Indego Personal is $98,000.

Not only is cost an issue, but the device is not practical in all environments.  One user of the Ottobock C-Brace exoskeleton finds the device very helpful in her home, but when she hiked the Appalachian Trail. She had difficulty keeping the battery charged for long periods and found rain to be problematic because it isn’t waterproof.

For some, no price is too high for the hope of walking again. In our area, Spain Rehab Center – UAB in Birmingham, AL and Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA are the two closest training centers that can evaluate the benefit of an exoskeleton for walking for people interested in this system.

Have you had experience with an exoskeleton? If so, please share what it was like for you.