Heart rate and oxygen demand of powered exoskeleton-assisted walking in persons with paraplegia

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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