State-of-the-art physical therapy technology helping children overcome medical challenges that prevent them from walking
The William and Marie Carls Pediatric Rehabilitation Center at Beaumont Children’s features one of the few Lokomat systems in Michigan configures especially for pediatric patients. The Lokomat has shown exceptional results for children who cannot walk, who walk with little strength or coordination or who have weakened torso or head control.
Combining a treadmill with dynamic weight support equipment and an individually adjustable exoskeleton for the legs, the Lokomat system improves patient outcomes through task-specific training, active patient engagement and increased, intensive therapeutic volume. The Lokomat provides sensory feedback so children “feel” as though they are walking over actual terrain. That sensory input is vitally important as the goal of these types of devices is to “retrain” the brain and body together to circumvent neurological and physiological trouble spots within each patient.
The program is under the medical direction of Edward Dabrowski, M.D., system director of Pediatric Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. The Carls Foundation donated $533,000 for the Lokomat machine and warranty to bring this advanced physical therapy technology to Beaumont Children’s. The Carls Foundation also funded the William and Marie Carls Children’s Medical Center located at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.
Therapy for many conditions in children large and small
Lokomat therapy may be beneficial for children and adolescents facing a range of conditions, including:
- cerebral palsy
- brain injury (traumatic/non-traumatic)
- incomplete paraplegia or quadriplegia (spinal cord injury/disease or spina bifida)
- Rett syndrome
- neuromuscular disease
- muscle weakness
- degenerative LE joint disease
The machine is completely adjustable to accommodate young patients of widely varying sizes, ensuring comfortable and productive training sessions. Even small children can participate thanks to a special set of harnesses and cuffs that provide a precise fit.
Advancing mobility through interactive play
The Lokomat system’s augmented performance feedback gives patients the opportunity to playfully exercise functional movements by measuring their performance and presenting it within task specific exercises. As they improve a score for active movements, patients are motivated to improve their movement quality. This reward-based training makes the highly repetitive therapy challenging and enjoyable.
Being engaged in repetitive therapy can be especially challenging for children, who sometimes struggle with maintaining focus over long periods of time. Specially designed interactive video graphics are displayed on a screen in front of the patient, and connect directly to what the child is doing within the Lokomat. A balloon chase program, for example, encourages patients to kick at virtual balloons and helps address issues of foot clearance and step length. Another program pits patients against a virtual opponent in pursuit of gold coins. This encourages the patient to actively increase walking speed by putting in more effort, resulting in higher training intensity.
Increasingly efficient therapy
Since the Lokomat supports patient weight and provides structure for balance, therapists no longer have to physically hold or support their patients during therapy sessions. Instead, they can focus on the therapy itself, facilitating progress and monitoring results.