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Robotic leg helps stroke victims get their stroll on

Combining the use of a robotic leg at home, along with traditional physiotherapy, can see a significant improvement in the pace stroke patients regain their mobility, according to UK researchers.

After 10 weeks with a strap-on bionic leg at home, 34 stroke patients with walking difficulties, could walk further and faster.

“It’s been shown that robotic devices alongside physiotherapy have helped in terms of individuals with stroke and their walking. So both of them combined together have a greater effect than just physiotherapy. We were trying to see if a robotic device but used at home with physiotherapy would have a greater effect than robotics use within hospitals and clinics,” Amy Wright, Senior Lecturer in Biomechanics at the University of Portsmouth, told Reuters.

Bionic leg research

Patients were given an AlterG strap-on robotic leg and were supposed to use it for a certain amount of time. They were assessed through a digital 3D camera system before and after the trial to identify if the artificial limb had an impact.

Brain feeds on movement

“A patient sometimes talks like a hooligan, even though he or she is a well-educated, cultured person. He does not use polite forms, often swears…

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“One specific example we had a gentleman come in who was in his wheelchair, he would be able to stand maybe with one other person next to him but not very confident at all, in terms of taking steps by the end of the 10-week programme he was able to walk around his home without a stick and no one around,” Amy Wright said.

Strokes

Around 1.9 million nerve cells in the brain are lost every minute that a stroke is left untreated, which can result in slurred speech and paralysis. A stroke can even result in permanent disability or death, according to the UK government website.

Age is the main risk factor for strokes, which most likely occur over the age of 55. One in four people is at risk of suffering a stroke in their lifetime, making it the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability, according to the World Health Organisation.


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