New robotic device helps patients with multiple sclerosis walk

CLEVELAND — Over the past 10 years, Kathy Miska has faced one of her greatest challenges.

“I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis 23 years ago,” she shared. “It has become progressive. My mobility has been put to the test much more.”

Miska, a former teacher, went from a walking stick to being completely dependent on a walker.

“I’ve always tried to stick with it as much as possible and adjust things as much as possible,” she said.

Her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) came after a variety of symptoms, which worsened over time. Eventually, doctors discovered a legion in her brain, and later, Miska began to lose her eyesight.

“I had a lot of numbness. I had optic neuritis, so I lost my sight. It is very common for many people to be diagnosed that way. It’s a starting indicator,” Miska explained. “It [MS] keeps attacking.”

With an MS diagnosis, Dr. Ashley Christopher, a physical therapist at the Cleveland Clinic, that there is usually no obvious cause.

“Researchers believe there is a trade-off between genetics and environmental factors that cause this,” she said. “Some common symptoms are sensory changes, so numbness, tingling in the hands, feet, or anywhere in the body…sometimes people first notice weakness in a certain area, maybe one hand, or the feeling that they can’t lift their foot It’s a very variable presentation and even more variable on what their first symptom may be.

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Courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic.

Robotic device helps MS patients walk.

Although MS is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, it affects more women than men and makes basic functions such as walking difficult, as it does with Miska.

“My doctor prescribed me a prescription for some physical therapy and when I went in, they’d just gotten this Exoskeleton suit at the Cleveland Clinic…and so they asked me if I’d like to try it on and walk around in it,” she said. explained.

Miska would become one of 21 women enrolled in the hospital’s study to gain access to this new device and its effectiveness in MS patients.

Once they’re in the suit, it actually has sensors and software designed to give them the right amount of assistance while walking. So if someone doesn’t have voluntary control over their legs, the device can provide all the support for a standing walking function,” explains Christopher. “We can adjust the device to give just enough to give them a successful, healthy step…it helps to work on stepping, timing of walking [and] all these things that are really necessary.”

The robotic suit received FDA approval this month for use in patients with MS. According to a press release, “Cleveland Clinic’s clinical trial was one of the first pilot studies to establish potential efficacy for this patient population. It was funded by a generous donor and a Cleveland Clinic Caregiver Catalyst Grant

After 24 sessions of about an hour, Miska says she is taking more healthy steps forward because she believes “the whole experience really helped me.”

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