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Medical News & Perspectives
September 14, 2005

Rehabilitation Medicine Welcomes a Robotic Revolution

JAMA. 2005;294(10):1191-1195. doi:10.1001/jama.294.10.1191

Chicago—Physical therapist Ela Lewis, MSPT, is about to do something that would be considered a grave error in any other setting. Her patient, a 65-year-old man, was left with impaired balance and walking ability after a stroke 10 years ago. To challenge his sense of balance Lewis throws a ball toward her patient, just outside his reach.

Many similarly impaired individuals would fall if they tried to catch the ball; others wouldn’t attempt to catch it for fear of falling. And no responsible therapist would ever risk injuring a patient. But Lewis and her patient are demonstrating a novel robotic device that keeps him upright and allows his therapist to use exercises that otherwise would be unthinkable.