Toyota is releasing a new robotic device which will help partially paralyzed stroke patients regain mobility. In an announcement released on Wednesday, the company presented its Welwalk WW-1000 system.
Toyota’s Robotic Leg Brace Should Provide A Simple And Effective Recovery System
The company also declared its intention to start renting out the devices to health facilities in Japan. Welwalk’s two-part system is composed of a robotic leg brace strapped to the affected side of a stroke patient. This will also work combined with a special treadmill designed by the company. Together, these will help monitor patient progress.
Traditional recovery methods have relied on physical therapists directly observing the patient progress. Based on it, they also made adjustments according to need. Toyota’s robotic leg brace system directly monitors the patient’s gait and movement and makes automatic adjustments to the device. The idea is for the brace to provide enough support so that the patient can walk, but not so much that they will use it as a crutch.
Robotic devices similar to Toyota’s Welwalk are showing promising results in improving patient mobility. A study in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation showed better treatment outcomes in spinal cord injury patients when using a robotic device. The were compared to the traditional monitoring by a physical therapist outcomes.
Robotic therapy devices may also help other disabled patient populations, such as cerebral palsy patients. One NIH study demonstrated significant improvements in these patients’ standing and walking abilities.
The ultimate goal of Toyota’s Welwalk is for the patient to eventually regain enough mobility on their own so as to no longer need the device. Toyota plans an initial release of 100 devices to health facilities across Japan and will charge a fee of 1 million yen ($9,000) and a monthly fee of 350,000 yen ($3,200).
Devices such as Toyota’s robotic leg brace will become more important as the global population ages. According to WHO statistics, 15 million people worldwide per year will have a stroke and 5 million will be left permanently disabled.
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