Samitivej Hospital’s Am’walk Center in Bangkok, Thailand

Rehabilitative physiotherapy can be traced back to 1813 when Per Henrik Ling introduced physical manipulation and exercise to the Royal Swedish Central Institute of Gymnastics’. Although not widely accepted at the time, or for many years after, the adoption of his ideas and techniques boomed as a result of World Wars I and II. The success of rehabilitative physiotherapy on injured soldiers resulted in it being imbedded as an integral part of modern medical treatment.

Rehabilitating body movement following damage by disease or physical trauma can be a prolonged and frustrating journey for a patient. And, with no two cases being the same, rehabilitation plans are all unique which requires a team of professional, multi-skilled technicians and physicians. Today, more and more emphasis is being put on the use of robotics and exoskeleton therapy as part of the rehabilitation process.

Although there is now extensive use of the exoskeleton within medical circles, its origins lay elsewhere. It was Ralph S. Mosher, and engineer with the General Electric Company in America, that developed, what he called, ‘Hardiman”, in 1965. This lumbering and cumbersome piece of equipment weighed an incredible 680 kilos.

This original invention was specifically developed for the US army and navy, and is still being developed by them to this day. But the medical profession has taken the original idea to new levels. Medical technicians have successfully adapted and further developed the Hardiman idea and combined it with modern day robotic science to aid in the rehabilitation of patients with mobility issues.

Over the decades’ technical limitations have been overcome, and from early in the 21st century marketable exoskeletons for medical purposes were freely available on the market. One of the first to be freely available was the “Locomat”, which was marketed in 2001. This was specifically developed to aid in the rehabilitation of stroke and spinal injury patients and was soon in use worldwide.

Over the last 20 years, with skilled direction from highly trained professionals, the exoskeleton has transformed physical rehabilitation. Now, the exoskeleton’s success has been undeniably proven in the mobility rehabilitation of patients suffering with all manner of neurological pathologies, physical disabilities and for those recovering from physical injuries.

Over last couple of decades there has been a lot of research into the efficacy of the exoskeleton use in mobility rehabilitation. Studies have shown that robotic exoskeleton training does, without doubt, improve gait, endurance and the walking distance of patients that undergo professionally supervised therapy

The Samitivej Hospital Am’ walk Center

The Samitivej Hospital Am’ walk Center is headed up by assistant professor Visal Kantaratanakul MD. Doctor Kantaratanakul specializes in chronic disease, cardiac rehabilitation and rehabilitation medicine and has extensive experience of practicing medicine, not only in Thailand, but also internationally in Australia and the US.

The Samitivej Hospital Am’ walk Center is a state of the art medical facility which has been specifically designed to aid mobility in patients suffering a multitude of differing medical issues. These include children and adults that suffer with congenital cerebral palsy, or CP. Stroke victims and any patient suffering a traumatic brain injury, TBI. Patients having suffered a spinal cord injury, SCI, and elderly patients experiencing lower limb weakness and weight bearing problems.

Treatment at Am’ walk Center

One of the key elements of robotic rehabilitation therapy is the treadmill-based robotic gait training system. This utilizes a body-weight support system. This controls the knee and hip movements with the patient practicing walking. Patients with standing and balance problems benefit immensely from this form of rehabilitation training.

In addition to improving balance, strength and endurance, it also improves the patient’s confidence in their ability, and reduces the risk of additional injury being caused by falls due to weakness or a lack of balance.

Full exoskeleton rehabilitation therapy gives the patient far more freedom of movement. Unlike robotic gait training, the patient is not restricted to walking on a treadmill. This allows the individual to move and walk in any direction.

With this form of rehabilitation therapy, the exoskeleton almost becomes part of the patient’s body. The equipment supports the patient’s body weight and helps to maintain balance as he or she freely moves in any direction. The training allows doctors and physiotherapists to accurately assess the patient’s gait and walking ability. This allows the professionals to select the necessary robotics that will aid each patient throughout their rehabilitation therapy.

Abnormal walking gait can be common, and robotic exoskeleton rehabilitation therapy helps to improve all manner gait abnormalities. Pathological gait abnormalities caused by neurological conditions fall into 8 main categories. Accurate diagnosis of the particular cause of the gait abnormality is vital for the ongoing success of rehabilitation therapy.

The 8 main categories for diagnosis are; diplegic gait, hemiplegic and neuropathic gait, as well as myopathic and choreiform, ataxic, parkinsonian and sensory gait. Without doubt, the robotic exoskeleton rehabilitation therapy allows for far more accurate assessment of a multitude of mobility issues.

Understanding these complex conditions requires particular expertise. The skilled professionals at Samitivej Hospital’s Am’ walk Center have the expertise to differentiate between the differing nuances of these conditions. Thus, this allows for tailoring of the ongoing therapy ensuring the very best rehabilitative results for the patient.

Am’walk Center Global Recognition

There can be no denying Thailand’s worldwide reputation as a center of medical excellence.  With more than 3 million medical tourists visiting Thailand each year the kingdom’s medical prominence is in no doubt. Samitivej Hospital leads that prominence with a multitude of accolades and accreditations.

The Am’walk Center is a world leader in the field of robotic and exoskeleton rehabilitation. It is known for its eminent level of medical care. But it also stands above all others for its peripheral patient care, being particularly accommodating to foreign visitors.

The hospital is staffed with multilingual professionals and has additional translators on hand. Many of Samitivej’s professionals have international experience, including having practiced in the UK, US and Australia. The hospital also provides visa advice and assistance to all foreign visitors. No medical facility in the Land of Smiles offers a more comprehensive service to indigenous and foreign visitor patients.

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