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Using robotics to learn how to walk again


October 26, 2004

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October 27, 2004 The Lokomat is a bio-treadmill with robotic arms to move a stroke and paralysis victim's legs, allowing them to feel the 'pattern' of walking - which rebuilds muscles faster and speeds recovery. Designer and manufacturer Hocoma specialises in developing innovative equipment for applications in medicinal engineering and now their new 'Lokomat' bio-treadmill is helping people with disabilities to walk again.

The development of the Lokomat System took eight years of research and five years of engineering to produce a breakthrough in Locomotion Therapy.

The robotic gait orthosis is being used successfully in prestigious clinics worldwide and is effective for patients who have suffered strokes, traumatic brain injury and paralysis due to transverse lesion of the spinal cord.

The automated process relieves therapists of the labour required during manual treadmill training, allowing longer sessions more often. The therapy is also more efficient and the patients can achieve their goals faster.

The basic version Lokomat System consists of the Lokomat Robotic Gait Orthosis used in combination with a Woodway treadmill and the Body Weight Support System Lokobasis.

The orthosis is position controlled. The patient's legs are guided according to a pre-programmed physiological gait pattern. The computer controlled guidance allows different gait parameters to be adjusted individually. The Lokomat Robotic Gait Orthosis is adjustable to the patient's individual anatomy: Hip width, length of upper and lower leg, size and position of the leg braces can be adjusted exactly to every adult. Specially designed leg braces prevent pressure sores.

The Lokomat Robotic Gait Orthosis utilizes high quality computer-controlled motors that are precisely synchronized with the speed of the treadmill. This sensitive system assures a precise match between the speed of the Lokomat Robotic Gait Orthosis and the treadmill.

A swinging gate allows the therapist to easily remove of the Lokomat Robotic Gait Orthosis from the treadmill. This allows the simple conversion from automated to manually assisted training.

The patient can be quickly wheeled on to the treadmill, lifted up, and adjusted into the Lokomat Robotic Gait Orthosis. Supervision of the patient's steps by means of optical sensors monitoring footfall on the treadmill surface allows for controlling the training without the therapist having to use the operator switch. An optional Assessment Module displays the activity of a patient while training in the Lokomat System in real-time on an additional flat panel display mounted on a pivoting arm, so it can easily be positioned within the close range of vision for the patient.

The patient sees their own activity evaluated through direct feedback and can then control correct functional movement. This improves the motivation to continue with therapy. The same Biofeedback data is displayed also on the Lokocontrol PC for the therapist's control and for gait analysis.

More details can be found at http://www.hocoma.ch/index.php?lang=en&page;=/pages/contact_de.html

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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