Technology Review – Take that Gravity!

An engineer, physiotherapist and clinician walk into a bar…sounds like the beginnings of a bad joke, but indeed, it was the beginnings of ZeroG, “the most advanced gait and balance training system in the world.” Maybe they weren’t at a bar, but they definitely had their creative hats on for the next gait trainer in our gait technology review series. Aretech teamed up with Bioness for the ZeroG, the first non-exoskeleton gait trainer we will review. Let’s take a closer look…

ZeroG

Overview: An overground gait and balance trainer that utilizes a body-weight support system on an overhead trolley
Intended Use: Patients can practice a wide range of walking activities, balance tasks, and ADLs after a neurological injury. Patients must have some lower extremity function to initiate a walking or stepping motion. Also may benefit orthopaedic and cardiac patients with weightbearing restrictions.
Purpose: to provide gait and balance training in a safe, controlled environment at rehab facilities
Release date: Currently in use at rehabilitation hospitals and facilities across the United States, and will be implemented in Canadian facilities by 2012.
Cost: $150,000.

My Take: Let me start off by saying that the ZeroG name is a little deceiving. If this product really eliminated gravity, patients would just be floating instead of walking, like in this promo for a like-named company. They may want to think about naming it BelowNormalG, or LessThan9.81m/s2G.

Aside from its name, I was hard-pressed to find much to complain about with ZeroG. From a therapy perspective it provides most of what you want when gait training. The therapist, using an 18.5” touchscreen computer, can control the level of body-weight support, distance walked, fall settings and training duration. The system tracks everything about the gait training session, including the number of falls prevented by the system. The coolness doesn’t end there. If you don’t want to hang out by the main computer, you can take an Apple iPod Touch while you walk with your client.

As a therapist, the gait training allowed by the ZeroG is ideal. The client is always safe and will not fall to the ground, you have direct access to the client with no machinery in the way, and you can perform functional tasks, such as stair climbing and sit-to-stand training without risk.

ZeroG will not benefit spinal cord injured clients with no volitional movement in the lower extremities, and although allowing for weight-supported gait training, the biomechanics of gait are not assisted (as with the Lokomat or some other robotic exoskeletons). The user is restricted to walking in the rehab facility where the ZeroG is located, and unable to use this device outdoors.

As an aside – many of you know that we implement the Lokomat at our clinic, Aim2Walk, and the Lokomat allows for a similar body-weight supported gait training, just over a treadmill instead of the clinic floor.

Nonetheless, the ZeroG is currently the best option for over-ground gait training that I have come across. It is not a robotic exoskeleton, making it difficult to directly compare. As seen in previous reviews, exoskeletons allow for independent mobility and can be used in the community. The ZeroG, though, for gait, balance and functional training in the early stages of recovery, is currently floating high above other forms of over-ground gait training.

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