Walking Faster and Farther With a Soft Robotic Exosuit: Implications for Post-Stroke Gait Assistance and Rehabilitation
This article evaluates the effects on mechanics and energetics of walking after stroke when using a soft robotic exosuit. Six individuals aged 40-60y in the chronic phase of stroke (3-5y post-stroke) were included in this study. Assessments on day 1 included 10-meter and 6-minute walk tests both without the exosuit worn and with the exosuit worn but powered off. Day 2 included the same assessments with the unpowered exosuit, as well as with the suit set to provide assistance during dorsiflexion and plantarflexion phases of the gait cycle. A comparison of the unworn exosuit condition with the worn-but-unpowered condition yielded no significant changes in participants’ walking speed, distance, or energy expenditure, despite the additional weight of the <5kg exosuit. In contrast, study participants walked a median 0.14 ± 0.06 m/s faster during the 10-meter walk test and traveled 32 ± 8 m farther during the six minute walk test with the suit powered on, compared with the unworn condition. The authors concluded that individuals post-stroke can achieve clinically meaningful increases in speed and distance when using the soft exosuit to provide both dorsiflexion and plantarflexion assistance.
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