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Getting People Back on Their Feet

The AutoAmbulator is an innovative therapeutic device designed to help rehabilitate patients who experience difficulty walking. It brings cutting-edge technology into the rehabilitation process. The Food and Drug Administration granted HealthSouth permission to begin using the AutoAmbulator in 2002.

What is the AutoAmbulator?

The AutoAmbulator is a sophisticated treadmill device unparalleled in its ability to help patients during gait training. Using the clinical practice of body weight supported treadmill training, or BWSTT, combined with advanced robotics, the AutoAmbulator simulates normal walking motion. BWSTT uses a suspension system to provide upright posture and create a safe environment during ambulation (walking). Using the suspension system over a treadmill while gradually increasing speed and decreasing the amount of body weight support helps patients safely practice walking.

When used as part of a comprehensive program, BWSTT therapy helps patients improve ambulation by retraining the brain and spinal cord walking mechanism. Increased muscle strength, improved physical endurance and improved circulation are all possible benefits of therapy with the AutoAmbulator.

Who can benefit from the AutoAmbulator?

The AutoAmbulator is designed to help people with gait disorders resulting from a variety of neurological conditions, including stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease. It is also helpful for patients with orthopedic conditions that result in gait abnormality and patients who are debilitated from deconditioning or prolonged illness. Whether an individual has been recently injured or has been unable to walk for years, the AutoAmbulator may be used to improve function related to balance, coordination and posture. The AutoAmbulator is an exciting technological advance in physical therapy, but it is not a cure for walking impairments.

How does it work?

A therapist fits the patient with a special harness and straps robotic arms to the patient's legs at the thigh and ankle. During therapy, the patient is suspended above a treadmill by an overhead hoist while the robotic arms move the patient's legs in a natural walking pattern. The therapist controls the AutoAmbulator device through a computerized touch screen panel or a remote control. Furthermore, to eliminate risk of injury, safety features automatically stop the machine when an adverse event occurs, such as a severe spasm, or if the patient's foot improperly strikes the treadmill.

How has it improved traditional therapy?

BWSTT therapy is labor intensive, often requiring more than two or three therapists to support the patient and manually move his or her legs. Because of this, rehabilitation centers find it difficult to perform BWSTT often and do so for only a limited number of patients. The AutoAmbulator, using sophisticated robotics, automates this therapy. It allows patients to experience a smooth, natural human gait for as long as the therapy is well tolerated and practical. The system also allows therapists to safely adjust the amount of weight bearing and walking speed to each patient's individual rehabilitation plan.

How much does therapy on the AutoAmbulator cost?

The cost for therapy varies according to insurance coverage and the frequency and duration of therapy. A representative at HealthSouth Deaconess Hospital can help answer these questions on an individual basis.

How can I learn more?

To learn more about the AutoAmbulator, contact HealthSouth Deaconess Hospital at 812/ 476-9983 or 800/ 677-3422.

4100 Covert Ave.
Evansville, IN 47714
812/ 476-9983
800/ 677-3422