Exoskeleton Helps Soldiers to Walk Again
A paraplegic British soldier is learning to walk again. During one of his tours in Afghanistan James Johnson sustained an injury that left him without the use of his legs. Now through the use of an exoskeleton, he has begun to walk again. The exoskeleton gives motion through the hips, knees and ankles. The exoskeleton has tilt sensors, which adds to stability. Crutches are also required to give extra stability.
The ReWalk exoskeleton is part of a growing industry. It is also part of a pilot scheme at Salford University. Upon being entered into the program James Johnson said:
“I’m very much a fan of the little things this is going to give me, like standing at the bar with your mates or just going for a walk.”
Exoskeletons are quite pricey as it stands, with this model costing €60,000. ReWalk are hoping that insurance companies will cover these costs for patients in the future for rehabilitation purposes.
3D printed prosthetics have recently enjoyed increased affordability. We have seen fathers 3D print hands for their children. We have also seen a teenager open-source his designs for a hand prothesis. Hopefully with the rise of 3D printing, we could see the exoskeleton industry become more affordable to the public.
The ReWalk system was approved for home use by the American FDA in 2014. Since it’s conception in 1998 it has made leaps and bounds. The system was developed by quadriplegic inventor Dr. Amit Goffer. Upon the FDA’s approval, ReWalk’s CEO Larry Jasinski said:
“This revolutionary product will have a life-changing impact on individuals with spinal cord injuries. For the first time individuals with paraplegia will be able to take home this exoskeleton technology. They can use it every day and maximize the physiological and psychological benefits we have observed in clinical trials.”
At €60,000 it isn’t exactly the most affordable option. However the psychological effect of this alone would be worth an incalculable amount to patients. We hope to see this system covered under health insurance in the future. The results to date are quite positive, and so we hope that it gives future patients access. This is exactly what ReWalk wants insurance companies to see.
“Insurance is the crucial point. We’re trying to help them understand with data the health benefits.”