FDA-cleared AutoAmbulator clinically tested on patients with MS, stroke, and spinal cord injury

Birmingham 23 April 2002HealthSouth Corporation has received notification from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearing the way for marketing the AutoAmbulator, a potentially groundbreaking therapy machine designed to assist patients with neurological conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury. The machine replicates a normal walking pattern to allow safe and efficient rehabilitation.

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HealthSouth researchers believe that the AutoAmbulator is an important advancement in rehabilitative medicine, with the potential for providing unprecedented physical and emotional benefits. The highly specialised device holds the patient upright while robotic legs move the patient's legs and sensors linked to a computer track vital signs, movement, and contact pressure.

"The AutoAmbulator is a giant step for stroke and spinal cord injury patients because it is such a change from standard rehabilitation procedures", stated Swaid N. Swaid, M.D., an internationally recognised neurosurgeon who was involved with the research. "This device eliminates the awkwardness and the inefficiency of clinicians attempting to safely push and pull a paralysed patient's legs while maintaining balance during conventional exercise routines."

Researchers from HealthSouth and the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama are conducting clinical studies on the machine developed by HealthSouth to rehabilitate persons recovering from stroke and other neurological conditions affecting walking. The studies in Birmingham will help researchers establish safety parameters with a variety of patients suffering from neurological disorders. They will also establish normal walking motions on the treadmill to be used with the neurological patient population. These results are expected to guide further clinical studies aimed at the effect on health problems linked to paralysis, such as respiratory infections and blood clot formation.

"There is great hope about the potential of the AutoAmbulator for people with multiple neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis", commented John Riser, M.D., Co-Director of the Tanner Center for Multiple Sclerosis at HealthSouth Medical Center in Birmingham. "We will play an active part in the research and are anticipating benefits for many of our patients."

HealthSouth will gradually expand the availability of the AutoAmbulator to inpatient rehabilitation hospitals across the nation. HealthSouth Chairman and CEO Richard M. Scrushy stated that engineers will continue to work with clinicians and researchers to modify the machine and make it more efficient. HealthSouth is a large provider of health care services, with approximately 1900 facilities in all 50 states of the USA and abroad. More news on the AutoAmbulator is available in the VMW August 2001 article AutoAmbulator simulates sense of walking to get rehabilitating patients back on their feet.


Leslie Versweyveld

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