Historically, persons with paralysis have limited options for overground ambulation. Recently, powered exoskeletons, which are systems that translate the user’s body movements to activate motors that move the lower limbs through a predetermined gait pattern, have become available. As part of an ongoing clinical study (NCT01454570), eight nonambulatory persons with paraplegia were trained to ambulate with a powered exoskeleton. Measurements of oxygen uptake (VO2) and heart rate (HR) were recorded for 6 min each during each maneuver while sitting, standing, and walking. The average value of VO2 during walking (11.2 +/– 1.7 mL/kg/min) was significantly higher than for sitting and standing (3.5 +/– 0.4 and 4.3 +/– 0.9 mL/kg/min, respectively; p < 0.001). The HR response during walking was significantly greater than that of either sitting or standing (118 +/– 21 vs 70 +/– 10 and 81 +/– 12 beats per minute, respectively; p < 0.001). Persons with paraplegia were able to ambulate efficiently using the powered exoskeleton for overground ambulation, providing the potential for functional gain and improved fitness.
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