Ankle Support Exoskeleton Could Help Stroke Patients and Patients with Mobility Problems
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon and North Carolina State developed an external mechanism that reduces the metabolic cost of walking. It can be especially beneficial for patients who are suffering from mobility problems. One of the authors of the paper describing the exoskeleton, assistant professor Steve Collins of Carnegie Mellon, says he believes it could help patients suffering permanent effects of a stroke.
Using an exoskeleton design constructed from carbon fiber, the designers – Collins and Greg Sawicki – were able to develop the device which requires no power and reduced the burden on the calf muscles when walking. The device relieves some of the clutching motion of the calf muscle during walking. The designers used light carbon fiber material to keep the weight down, a challenge for many other exoskeletons designed to reduce energy expenditure while walking.
The team is looking to apply the new device to other patients with a variety of mobility issues to tailor the designs to best serve different disabilities. This includes patients with permanent effects of stroke. “We’re still a little ways away from doing that,” Collins says, “but we certainly plan to try.”
People who survive a stroke are often left with serious disabilities such as mobility challenges, speech difficulties, and cognitive impairment. Social Security disability benefits may cover those who suffer disabilities stemming from a stroke or who suffer from other mobility issues that affect ability to work.