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'Navigaitor' Helps Patients Walk Again
Date:6/16/2009

eds of the individual patient and function under full weight-bearing and partial weight-bearing conditions.

"Giving patients freedom of motion to walk safely suspended on the harness and to change direction at will, as in a real life, rather than have their movements restricted to a treadmill or track, is important in speeding the recovery process," said Dr. Fast. "We now know that the brain is plastic and that repetitive movements play a role in helping the brain develop nerve ending junctions that bypass the areas of the brain damaged by a stroke," he added. "The sooner we begin training the muscles and the brain to interact in real-life situations, the sooner the brain's circuitry rearranges and the healing process can begin."

A 200-square-foot frame of steel beams defines the boundaries of the therapeutic space. The frame's dimensions can be tailored to different room sizes in hospitals, nursing homes and free standing rehabilitation centers. The harness hangs from a mobile ceiling beam that crosses the width of the therapeutic space. As the patient moves, the harness cable pushes against a tilt mechanism that feeds information to a computer. The computer directs the mobile beam and harness to move with the patient inside the therapeutic space.

The inspiration for the Navigaitor came seven years ago when, as a consultant, Dr. Fast saw two patients who had fallen and injured themselves severely during therapy sessions at other hospitals. It has been successfully used by a dozen patients in the past few weeks and is evolving daily. Along with the engineers from the University of Hartford who helped build the device, Dr. Fast is customizing the Navigaitor for Parkinson's disease patients who cannot initiate their stride. The system will be programmed to give them a slight boost to start walking.

There are also plans underway to teach patients how to walk over ice and on s
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SOURCE Montefiore Medical Center
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