June 2013 Update:
Spinal Cord Injury
Research Results Drive Innovative SCI Patient Care to Advance Human Ability™
As one of 14 Model Systems for Spinal Cord Injury across the country, RIC is no stranger to leadership when it comes to spinal cord rehabilitation. In the past few weeks, though, RIC has taken a radical step by initiating a high-intensity gait training program early in the rehabilitation process.
This move, prompted by ground-breaking research conducted by Dr. T. George Hornby with stroke and spinal cord patients, aims to improve outcomes and shorten the time some people with spinal cord injury rely on a wheelchair.
Dr. David Chen, chief of staff and medical director of the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at RIC, is excited about this evolution of spinal injury care and recovery. Until now, he said, the care team would not have prioritized ambulation training early in the recovery process for those patients with more severe injury or impairment.
Now research findings have driven a change.
Hornby’s study showed that with a continuous, variable and intense stepping program, patients showed greater improvement than those whose therapy followed the less-intense, traditional format.
“The patients have been thrilled by [intense gait training],” said Dr. Chen. “It really does inject a sense of hope for these individuals and their families.”
Dr. Chen added that the rehabilitation care program continues to focus on traditional objectives such as learning transfers to and from a wheelchair and wheelchair propulsion as well as activities of daily living like eating, toileting and dressing.
“We still focus on what patients need to do here and now to be able to return home,” he said. “We hope the innovations will result in better recovery and possibly quicker recovery of the ability to walk and other neurologic function.”
RIC Investigates Use of Powered-Walking Device for SCI Patients
RIC is dedicated to improving quality of life for individuals and their families.
The next step in devices for spinal-injured individuals may well be suits that help them stand and take steps. A research study at RIC focuses on one such device, the Ekso™ suit, which functions as a powered exoskeleton. The suit has motorized hinges that produce joint motion at the hips and knees, leading to powered walking.
The Ekso suit is one of several such devices in development but the only one currently undergoing study at RIC. The suit is intended for use with individuals injured at the C7 level or lower.
Dr. Arun Jayaraman, director of RIC’s Rehabilitation Technologies & Outcomes Lab, is leading the study. Its goal is to provide training guidelines for clinicians’ use to improve outcomes for spinal-injured patients using the Ekso device.
Dr. Jayaraman also will provide feedback to the company as it moves forward developing the next generation of Ekso, potentially available for home use.
The study is ongoing. For information about the study or to enroll a participant, visit the study’s page on the RIC site.
RIC Demonstrates its Leadership in Spinal Cord Injury Research and Care
The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) held its 40th-anniversary scientific meeting in Chicago May 6-8, and RIC played a significant role in the event.
The meeting drew hundreds of clinicians and researchers from around the world for one of the largest condition-specific scientific meetings related to spinal cord injury. Eight RIC professionals – researchers, physicians and allied health professionals – presented at the conference. Some delivered oral presentations while others presented posters and still others presented during educational symposia. Some RIC staff members even had multiple presentations.
“It really showed the clinical, educational and scientific work in spinal cord injury that is going on here at RIC,” said Dr. David Chen, RIC’s chief of staff and medical director of the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program.
RIC also hosted a pre-conference event on Sunday, May 5, opening its doors to about 55 participants to demonstrate RIC's leadership in the technology and research in conjunction with clinical care.
Participants saw demonstrations of technology such as the Ekso™ powered exoskeleton, anti-gravity harnesses and treadmills used in spinal cord research and rehabilitation. Patients volunteered to take part in the event as well, helping clinicians and researchers show visitors what they do.
In addition to the demonstrations, event participants got a tour of RIC’s AbilityLab™, where researchers and clinicians collaborate to solve patients’ problems better and faster. The AbilityLab’s environment and design, along with the latest in cutting-edge technology, is designed to create new possibilities for patient recovery.
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