A New Era in Robotic Rehabilitation: A Patient Inspired Story

By Arik Avni, Co-CEO Motorika

Sloan on the Optimal G Pro, robotic rehabilitation platform

Sloan Deumite was paralyzed for 30 years and is now walking over 2000 feet with the help of robotics. Robotic inspired rehabilitation is driving huge benefits for patients. Learn more about Sloan’s story, and how robotic solutions can help clinicians transform the treatment of neurological injuries. 

I have dedicated the last 20 years to working in the rehabilitation sector. As those who know me well surely know, my intention and passion is to bring new solutions for people with disabilities by accelerating recovery, improving outcomes and treatment efficacy, and increasing independence to promote a better quality of life.

In the last decade, there has been a silent revolution in the use of rehabilitation robots.  From personal experience as a physical therapist, robotic solutions provide huge advantages to neuroscience and conventional rehabilitation, augmenting the therapist’s toolbox for successful treatment of stroke, spinal cord injury (SCI), and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Hundreds of studies have been conducted, highlighting the benefits of robotics in rehabilitation. Most of these point to key research findings, related to neuroplasticity and the benefit of mass repetitive movement to affect cortical reorganization. Robotic rehabilitation solutions are a “perfect match” to accomplish these goals. They can help provide mass repetitive motion to patients with various levels of assistance in a replicable manner, while objectively assessing the individual progress of each patient.

While working at Motorika, I see the potential of robotic rehabilitation every day. Both the ReoAmbulator™, our gait re-education platform, and the ReoGo™, our upper extremity platform, empower patients to enhance their rehabilitation journey with better awareness and understanding of their movements, while challenging and engaging them in a completely new way.

And sometimes you have the privilege to take part in a specific patient experience that makes you realize why you are here and why you do the job you do.

The inspirational story of Sloan Deumite is one of these cases.

Paralyzed for 30 years to walking over 2000 feet!

Sloan has been paralyzed for over 30 years. It was an amazing sight to see Sloan walk over 2000 feet for the first time since being paralyzed with the help of Motorika’s robotic gait training platform, the ReoAmbulator™.

Sloan’s story is an example of why you should never give up. Following a boat accident in his high school years in 1986, Sloan broke his neck diving into shallow water, losing the use of both legs and his right arm. He now moves primarily through the use of a powered wheelchair.

I first met Sloan last year when he was trying Motorika’s ReoAmbulator™ at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis in Florida. Honored to be a part of its clinical program, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is considered the premier investigative research program targeting and investigating spinal cord and brain injuries. It was a highly successful training session.


“Being upright and walking does more than anyone can imagine, both mentally and physically,” Sloan said. “It’s so great for your outlook.” 

In fact, after Sloan tried other options and found the ReoAmbulator to be the most beneficial for him, his father, Norman, supported bringing the device to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Not only did this mean Sloan could enjoy his treatment closer to home, but also many more patients could benefit from the intensive robotic therapy.

It was with great pride, that after several sessions, I received an amazing text message from Sloan stating he had walked over 2000 feet on the ReoAmbulator™ – as he said “A record day!” And his rehabilitation journey continues to improve.

It is clear robotic therapy has an important role in rehabilitation, so let me give some background on what exactly is a robotic rehabilitation device and how it can help clinical treatment.

What is a robotic rehabilitation device?

A robotic rehabilitation device essentially empowers the therapist to accelerate patients’ rehabilitation journeys and improve outcomes. They are robotic devices tailored to assist, monitor and optimize different sensorimotor functions (e.g. arm, hand, leg, and ankle).

In the case of Sloan, he used a robotic gait-training platform – Motorika’s ReoAmbulator™. This is an innovative, body weight support treadmill with robotic legs that enables effective and personalized robotic gait training for neurological and orthopedic patients.

It is based on the principles of neuroplasticity combined with state-of-the-art technology, to enable neuromuscular re-education and brain retraining. By facilitating intensive and repetitive reciprocal motion, the ReoAmbulator aids patients to recover normal gait patterns and improve muscle strength, weight bearing, balance, posture and functional ability.


Benefits of robotic rehabilitation for patients with neurological injuries

The potential benefits from robotic rehabilitation for patients with neurological injuries are very high. Today, more than 250,000 people in the USA alone suffer from spinal cord injury (SCI). Furthermore, it is estimated that over 10 million Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) occur annually across the globe, with over 57 million people hospitalized with a TBI during their lifetime! Neurological injuries are a devastating and life-altering injury.

For therapists, they are a challenge to treat under ideal circumstances. Patients are at a high lifetime risk for medical complications and other health conditions secondary to their injury, including pain, spasticity, urinary tract infections, respiratory complications, pressure ulcers, and major depressive disorders. Secondary conditions contribute to significant morbidity, medical costs, and a high rate of re-hospitalization in the first year after injury.

Robot rehabilitation solutions enable therapists to enhance traditional treatments. For example, robotic systems can be easily used under the supervision of one therapist, providing intensive, task-oriented gait training, as part of a set of rehabilitation tools that additionally include other non-robotic approaches.

In conventional rehabilitation of the lower limbs, gait training would require two to three physiotherapists to train a patient to walk, and the pace and pattern of walking may not be consistent. It is also physically strenuous for the physiotherapists to sustain the exercise over long periods, thus affecting the rehabilitation progress of the patient.

Robotic solutions excel at providing therapy for long periods, in a consistent and precise manner, while requiring less time and effort from the therapist and patient. They are programmed to perform in different operational modes and automated limb movements during the task specific gait training. Furthermore, they can also measure and record a range of gait performance parameters – activity level, forces on the hip, speed, weight bearing and symmetry level.

In the case of the ReoAmbulator™, our robotic system is designed to constantly challenge and engage the patient through various modes of operation, augmented feedback, interactive exercises and games, and virtual reality – all personalized to each patient’s needs.

This month we plan to launch our new solution – Optimal-G™ Pro. The Optimal-G™ Pro is the world’s most advanced gait training platform. Alongside offering more advanced robotic operations for better personalized and optimized treatment, it also includes our breakthrough Enhanced Learning Intelligence Technology (E.L.I.T.E.), to improve clinical decision making via a proactive, adaptive and progressive therapy session. If you are interested in learning more about the Optimal-G™ Pro, please come and say hello we are at the AAPM&R conference, booth 842 from October 25th-28th in Orlando, Florida.


The future of robotic rehabilitation in treating post-neurological trauma and orthopedic injury

As a physical therapist and in my current role, I am highly involved in the crossroads of technology with the therapist and patient experience. To me, conducting research into neurorehabilitation has never been more exciting.

Robotics and various forms of electrical stimulation are currently the most researched rehabilitation approaches, suggesting technology will play a leading role in the future of SCI and TBI rehabilitation.

In the wider healthcare sector, we are seeing a digital health boom with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven clinical support tools to deliver the promise of personalized medicine and solutions we could not have previously imagined.

Similarly, in the robotic rehabilitation sector, I believe the ability to capture, analyze and learn from patient’s data throughout their treatment and rehabilitation journey, is the next phase in robotics. This is in essence the foundation of Motorika’s new E.L.I.T.E. technology.

E.L.I.T.E., in principle, learns with the patient based on their objective clinical data and their individual progress, to proactively adjust and personalize the patient’s treatment plan. Integrating clinical principles of gait rehabilitation and motor learning enables the robotic system to analyze different patient functional abilities and provide therapists with recommendations on the correct adjustments according to treatment parameters. These recommendations can significantly improve therapist decision-making, progress therapy programs and enhance patient care.

We are entering into an exciting phase in robotic rehabilitation. You will find me in the front seat watching, learning and, hopefully driving its future development to give patients with disabilities the quality of life and independence they deserve.

Until next time!