Assistive and rehabilitative powered exoskeletons for spinal cord injury (SCI) and stroke subjects have recently reached the clinic. Proper tension and joint alignment are critical to ensuring safety. Challenges still exist in adjustment and fitting, with most current systems depending on personnel experience for appropriate individual fastening. Paraplegia and tetraplegia patients using these devices have impaired sensation and cannot signal if straps are uncomfortable or painful. Excessive pressure and blood-flow restriction can lead to skin ulcers, necrotic tissue and infections. Tension must be just enough to prevent slipping and maintain posture. Research in pressure dynamics is extensive for wheelchairs and mattresses, but little research has been done on exoskeleton straps. We present a system to monitor pressure exerted by physical human-machine interfaces and provide data about levels of skin/body pressure in fastening straps. The system consists of sensing arrays, signal processing hardware with wireless transmission, and an interactive GUI. For validation, a lower-body powered exoskeleton carrying the full weight of users was used. Experimental trials were conducted with one SCI and one able-bodied subject. The system can help prevent skin injuries related to excessive pressure in mobility-impaired patients using powered exoskeletons, supporting functionality, independence and better overall quality of life.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited