Stroke patients in the US could soon take advantage of cutting-edge robotics during the recovery process. The Food and Drug Administration has cleared Wandercraft's Atalante exoskeleton for use in stroke rehabilitation. The machine can help with intensive gait training, particularly for people with limited upper body mobility that might prevent using other methods.
The current-generation Atalante is a self-balancing, battery-powered device with an adjustable gait that can help with early steps through to more natural walking later in therapy. While the hardware still needs to be used in a clinical setting with help from a therapist, its hands-free use lets patients reestablish their gait whether or not they can use their arms.
Wandercraft plans to deliver its first exoskeletons to the US during the first quarter of the year, though it didn't name initial customers. It only recently launched its commercial business in the country, but financial backer Quadrant Management says Wandercraft could "significantly scale" its operations within the next one to two years.
FDA-cleared exoskeletons are still relatively rare, and are still limited to helping with specific conditions. Last June, Ekso Bionics received permission to market its EksoNR device for multiple sclerosis rehab. Wandercraft's approval makes the technology accessible for a wider range of patients, and may be especially helpful when strokes are a major cause of long-term disability in the US. Over 795,000 people have a stroke in the country each year — this could help some of them regain freedom of movement.