Users with spinal cord injury experience of robotic Locomotor exoskeletons: A qualitative study of the benefits, limitations, and recommendations

Dominique Kinnett-Hopkins*, Chaithanya K. Mummidisetty, Linda Ehrlich-Jones, Deborah Crown, Rachel A. Bond, Marc H. Applebaum, Arun Jayaraman, Catherine Furbish, Gail Forrest, Edelle Field-Fote, Allen W. Heinemann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) may experience both psychological and physiological benefits from robotic locomotor exoskeleton use, and knowledgeable users may have valuable perspectives to inform future development. The objective of this study is to gain insight into the experiences, perspectives, concerns, and suggestions on the use of robotic locomotor exoskeletons by civilians and veterans living with SCI. Methods: Participants reported their demographic characteristics and the extent of robotic exoskeleton use in an online survey. Then, 28 experienced robotic locomotor exoskeleton users participated in focus groups held at three regional hospitals that specialize in rehabilitation for persons with SCI. We used a qualitative description approach analysis to analyze the data, and included thematic analysis. Results: Participants expressed that robotic exoskeletons were useful in therapy settings but, in their current form, were not practical for activities of daily living due to device limitations. Participants detailed the psychological benefits of being eye-level with their non-disabled peers and family members, and some reported physiologic improvements in areas such as bowel and bladder function. Participants detailed barriers of increased fatigue, spasticity, and spasms and expressed dissatisfaction with the devices due to an inability to use them independently and safely. Participants provided suggestions to manufacturers for technology improvements. Conclusions: The varied opinions and insights of robotic locomotor exoskeletons users with SCI add to our knowledge of device benefits and limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 11 2020

Keywords

  • Assistive technology
  • Focus groups
  • Locomotor training
  • Outcome
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics

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