User-Friendly Brace Helps Paraplegics To Walk

March 05, 1998

Dutch rehabilitation technologists have developed an orthopaedic brace which makes it possible for paraplegics to carry out all kinds of everyday activities again. The brace is more versatile and easier to transport than previous models. It also allows the patient to bend his knees. The device was developed by a team from Twente University of Technology and the R&D Institute at 'Het Roessingh rehabilitation centre' in Enschede. Funding was provided by the Netherlands Technology Foundation (STW), which is part of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Walking braces have already been used to help rehabilitate Dutch paraplegics for the past 20 years. The movements involved in walking and the way walking stretches the body help prevent pressure sores, tendon contraction, spasticity and osteoporosis. Walking also improves the patient's general physical fitness. Most rehabilitation centres use a so-called 'hip-knee-ankle-foot brace', which supports the patient's paralysed body from his torso down to his toes. However, many patients find this device hardly any help because it is too difficult to use. Walking with such a device also involves much effort and concentration. Many patients want to be able to meet people, do housework, or just go out for a drink at the pub. The new walking brace makes all of this much easier.

When the patient is using his wheelchair, the part of the new device which supports the torso can be easily separated from the two lower leg braces and hung on the back of the wheelchair. The brace can also be folded up so that it easily fits in a car. It also differs from existing models by making it possible for the patient to bend his knees during the recovery phase of walking. This considerably facilitates walking on uneven ground, for example. The new brace is to be marketed under the name SEPRIX (Separable Reciprocator with Intelligent Knee Stabilisation).

Further information:
Gert Baardman (Roessingh Research and Development)
T 31-53-487-5733, F 31-53-434-0849

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

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