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Franciscan Health using ‘game-changing’ robotic technology to help stroke patients

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Doctors and physical therapists at Franciscan Health have a “game-changing” piece of technology to help stroke patients.

It’s an Ekso GTTM robotic exoskeleton designed to help patients walk within 24 to 48 hours after having their stroke. The exoskeleton allows patients to walk on their first day of therapy.

According to Franciscan Health, they are the first hospital in central Indiana to be using this technology.

Physical therapists help by strapping the patient in. There are sensors in the exoskeleton, so when a patient takes a step, those sensors can feel where a person needs help and will move a motor to the weaker side.

When a patient is weak, such as right after a stroke, and does not have any movement, the motor will do most of the work for them until they are strong enough to do it on their own.

“It just allows us to work on walking sooner; work on the pattern of walking sooner,” Dr. Sachin Mehta said. “Get them walking faster — their mood is better, the energy is better, they feel like they’re really recovering quickly.”

According to Mehta, there’s still research being done on how this will help patients in their long-term recovery, but researchers say the process improves balance. Patients aren’t falling as often, so doctors are seeing a reduction in orthopedic injuries with stroke victims.

Teresa Reed, a patient who had a stroke last year, has seen the amount of steps she can take while wearing the exoskeleton quadruple since she first started using it.

“It’s been a struggle, but I’ve been determined, and they told me that makes a difference, so I’m just going to keep trying as long and as hard as I can,” she said.

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