March 24, 2018

A new study carried out by scientists at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center has found that wearing a robotic exoskeleton can help to improve how children with cerebral palsy walk— potentially providing hope to cerebral palsy patients across the world.

A condition that permanently affects movement and coordination, cerebral palsy is the most common motor-disability that develops in childhood and is thought to be caused by damage to the developing nervous system. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 323 children will be identified with this life-limiting condition every year.

The difficulty that many cerebral palsy patients have walking and moving can cause increased stress on joints, resulting in pain in later life. This, and helping patients to lead a more independent, free life, is one of the reasons that developing new movement-assisting technology is so important.

The study saw custom orthotics—artificial devices to aid movement— fitted to the legs of children to help extend their knees when they walked. The robotic orthotics also helped to correct their posture too. The study found that these incredible devices helped to improve the extension of the child’s knee in six out of the seven who were taking part— 90%. Incredibly, in their report, the researchers write that the robotic devices saw a similar or greater extension of the knee than that brought about by many invasive surgical procedures.

At Hospices of Hope we read this article with much interest and excitement. In many areas of Eastern Europe, access to the vital care that children with cerebral palsy need is severely lacking, forcing many to lead limited lives as a consequence. The robotic orthotics developed in this study really are a marvelous way of using technology to bring hope and a new lease of life to cerebral palsy patients. It shows how technology can be used, and is being used, to radically transform the dignity and quality of life for many people who have life-limiting conditions.

We’re committed to developing technology that can transform the quality of life for people living with terminal and serious conditions. We’re not only improving healthcare in Eastern Europe: we’re also doing the same in the USA and across the world. The innovative technology that we are developing in Romania and Serbia will ultimately benefit end-of-life and serious illness care across the entire world.

We congratulate the team at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center on their fantastic work and look forward to seeing what amazing things come from it!

Find out more about our work.