Cerebral palsy and spina bifida affect thousands of children in the United States alone each year. These children are often unable to walk without utilizing braces;however, these orthoses are cumbersome, energetically costly, and must be frequently replaced as the child grows. These factors lead to reduced use, and thus reduced benefit. Exoskeletons have emerged as a tool in gait rehabilitation that can provide addition power as well as guidance through the gait cycle. Current devices are too large for a child to utilize and devices have not been designed with these specific diagnoses in mind. The goal of this project is to develop an exoskeleton for pediatric gait training therapy for those with cerebral palsy and spina bifida. This device will provide functional practice of a natural gai while providing the additional strength that the child may need to complete the step. Furthermore, by making the device adjustable, the exoskeleton can grow with the child, thus eliminating down-time while the orthotic is being resized or discomfort and pressure sores when it does not fit correctly. In this proposal, the investigators intend to identify the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the device as well as design test studies. We will also develop the hardware required for this device, including prototyping customizable braces to support the needs of the child while allowing for rapid growth. Special consideration will be paid to bracing to accommodate the additional needs of these diagnoses, such as joint alignment. The device will be lightweight and adjustable for children approximately ages 5-8. We will also develop software appropriate for pediatric gait rehabilitation in order to provide sufficient power to complete clinically correct gait patterns while encouraging the child to use as much of their own strength as possible. Future effort will continue development and test the efficacy of such device.

Public Health Relevance

This project will develop a pediatric exoskeleton for use in clinical gait rehabilitation for those children with spina bifida or cerebra palsy. The prototype exoskeleton will create a lightweight, adjustable device that can guide a child through the gait cycle while developing their own strength. Rehabilitation with exoskeletons can lead to improved walking as well as reduction of secondary health risks.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DRG-H (90))
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Cruz, Theresa
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Berkeley Bionics
United States
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