Exoskeleton-based training improves walking independence in incomplete spinal cord injury patients: results from a randomized controlled trial

Ángel Gil-Agudo*, Álvaro Megía-García, José Luis Pons, Isabel Sinovas-Alonso, Natalia Comino-Suárez, Vicente Lozano-Berrio, Antonio J. del-Ama

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: In recent years, ambulatory lower limb exoskeletons are being gradually introduced into the clinical practice to complement walking rehabilitation programs. However, the clinical evidence of the outcomes attained with these devices is still limited and nonconclusive. Furthermore, the user-to-robot adaptation mechanisms responsible for functional improvement are still not adequately unveiled. This study aimed to (1) assess the safety and feasibility of using the HANK exoskeleton for walking rehabilitation, and (2) investigate the effects on walking function after a training program with it. Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted including a cohort of 23 patients with less than 1 year since injury, neurological level of injury (C2-L4) and severity (American Spinal Cord Injury Association Impairment Scale [AIS] C or D). The intervention was comprised of 15 one-hour gait training sessions with lower limb exoskeleton HANK. Safety was assessed through monitoring of adverse events, and pain and fatigue through a Visual Analogue Scale. LEMS, WISCI-II, and SCIM-III scales were assessed, along with the 10MWT, 6MWT, and the TUG walking tests (see text for acronyms). Results: No major adverse events were reported. Participants in the intervention group (IG) reported 1.8 cm (SD 1.0) for pain and 3.8 (SD 1.7) for fatigue using the VAS. Statistically significant differences were observed for the WISCI-II for both the “group” factor (F = 16.75, p < 0.001) and “group-time” interactions (F = 8.87; p < 0.01). A post-hoc analysis revealed a statistically significant increase of 3.54 points (SD 2.65, p < 0.0001) after intervention for the IG but not in the CG (0.7 points, SD 1.49, p = 0.285). No statistical differences were observed between groups for the remaining variables. Conclusions: The use of HANK exoskeleton in clinical settings is safe and well-tolerated by the patients. Patients receiving treatment with the exoskeleton improved their walking independence as measured by the WISCI-II after the treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Neurological rehabilitation
  • Robotic exoskeleton
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Rehabilitation


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