With the arrival in Quebec of a new type of exoskeleton — only one of the three in service in the world, patients, paraplegics will be able to get closer to their biggest dream: to walk again one day.
Of course, the robotic exoskeletons that bear the weight of its users exists since a certain time. But the Institut de réadaptation en déficience physique de Québec (IRDPQ) does not possess any. And that it comes to get done what almost no else knows how to do : in addition to helping the subject to move, an electrical stimulation promotes at the same time strengthening the muscles.
This is a major asset, according to the researcher Laurent Bouyer. “We pass from a rehabilitation classic to the cutting edge of what is done in one shot. This is a big jump for us,” says the neurophysiologist at the Centre for interdisciplinary research in rehabilitation and social integration (CIRRIS).
This small wonder of physical rehabilitation has cost the tidy sum of $ 210,000, the amount extended by the Foundation of Momentum is therefore the most important investment in its history.
The exoskeleton for people with spinal cord injuries in an accident or due to illness, will allow persons who have suffered injury partial training earlier and to recover their function more quickly.
It is even possible to believe that some of the “heavy” cases that were too weak to hope to regain functional use of their legs, will be able to get there, according to Mr. Bouyer.
But this, it will be necessary to verify the use. The device is so recent that the scientific literature is too small to predict its impact on the healing of patients.
Moreover, the CIRRIS launched a research project two years in collaboration with the IRDPQ.
It will take a few months before the first clients to try it in Quebec city. Therefore, it is an advanced “significant, yes, but it is necessary to properly manage the hope,” explains Dr. Isabelle Côté.
“One day, maybe”
In the current state of the science, the exoskeleton will not be able to help those whose the contact between the member and the brain has been completely broken. They represent about one-quarter of all injuries to the spinal cord.
This is the case for Charles-Olivier Arsenault, 39 years. Having lost control of his legs in a sport accident five years ago, he still watched with much interest the announcement of the IRDPQ, Thursday.
“This is research, currently, on the sci patients with incomplete lesions, but one day, perhaps, there will be this kind of project here for complete lesions” as it is his case-he hoped.
On average, 80 people injured with spinal cord injury are admitted to hospital each year at the IRDPQ. In Canada, it lists approximately 1400 new cases per year.