The rehabilitation program based on Robot Suit HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) has started at the Ibaraki Prefectural University of Health Sciences Hospital in Japan and targets patients suffering from intractable diseases.
It marked the first time for health-care facilities in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan to provide this type of therapy since rehabilitation using robotic suits became eligible to be covered by public health insurance in April 2016.
By repeatedly walking with the assistance of HAL, patients can once again learn how to walk, according to hospital officials.
The robotic gear was developed by Cyberdyne Inc. in Tsukuba, Japan also in the prefecture, an entrepreneurial spinoff from the University of Tsukuba, and is fixed with belts to the lower back and legs so that it can help users walk with a motor.
Biological signals sent to move muscles are detected with sensors placed on the skin. Based on the signals, a computer controls the robot suit to optimize its movements.
The rehabilitation program covers patients suffering from eight intractable diseases who cannot walk by themselves. Those include muscular dystrophy, a condition characterized by progressive weakening of the muscles, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
It has been confirmed that by using HAL, patients can walk longer distances than they can through ordinary rehabilitation efforts. This is done by learning how to use muscles, how to shift their weight and other techniques.
The Ibaraki Prefectural University of Health Sciences plans to conduct a 40-minute HAL therapy on nine occasions, along with ordinary rehabilitation, during the one-month hospitalization period.
“I want to deliver this most advanced therapy to target patients in the entire prefecture,” said Yutaka Kono, a neurology professor at the university’s Center for Medical Sciences, who is involved in the program.
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