ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill., Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ — Patients learning to walk again after a stroke and neurological injuries are benefiting from a revolutionary new device in the KineAssist(TM) Robot, which represents a giant leap forward in effectiveness for people learning to walk again after a stroke or neurological injuries.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080922/AQM182)

The robot, the first of its kind to be used in a community-based hospital setting, was demonstrated today at Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital. A new prototype of the robot is being introduced following three years of successful clinical trials at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to refine and fine tune its unique features and capabilities. The KineAssist Walking & Balance Exercise System(TM) was developed through a joint venture of Evanston-based Kinea Design, a company of expert physical therapists and engineers, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Chicago PT.

The KineAssist Robot, winner of the prestigious international Industrial Design Excellence Award, applies robotic technology to helping patients learn to walk forward and backward, step sideways, climb stairs and regain the balance, strength and mobility to carry on daily activities without the fear of falling. The robot is a welcome tool for physical therapists because it frees them to interact with and safely challenge patients with real-life tasks, while the robot fully supports and holds patients in a safe position even if they lose their balance.

"The KineAssist Robot enhances the connection between patients and physical therapists, freeing them for the first time from the responsibility of supporting the patient's weight," says Bruce Anderson, Chief Executive Officer, Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital. "Patients report feeling safer and more confident as they build strength and stamina."

"Through cutting-edge research discoveries like the KineAssist, RIC is positioned to deliver the most advanced clinical treatments which help RIC to set the standards in rehabilitation care and provide patients with the best functional outcomes," said Elliot Roth, MD, Chief Academic Officer, RIC. "RIC is thrilled to export this technology to its longest standing alliance partner, Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital, to help patients in the northwestern suburban communities to regain ability after stroke."

Artificial body weight support was previously limited to a stationary treadmill with a harness. The KineAssist allows total mobility and portability. The harness on the robot was designed by the same team that designs harnesses for Cirque du Soleil. The robot can be used in a wide variety of clinical settings, down hospital hallways, even outside. Therapists can adjust the robot's level of resistance and other variables by touch screen, a revolutionary new level of control for therapists as they help patients progressively build strength and flexibility. The KineAssist's computer screen also displays patient performance data for therapists and patients to measure their progress.

"It took some time for me to learn to trust it, but then I stumbled a few times, and it caught me," says Cal Gord, 61, who is recovering from a stroke and undergoing physical therapy at Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital. "Now, the KineAssist makes me feel 100 percent safe."

"Therapists can now challenge patients more than they could without the robot," says Dr. David Brown, KineAssist Designer and Co-Founder of Kinea Design. "The robot can provide partial body weight support, allowing patients to begin upright therapy earlier, and the therapist can vary the degree of resistance on the upper and lower body, or on the left or right, adjusting for a stroke patient's specific therapeutic needs."

Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital offers a full range of inpatient, day rehabilitation and outpatient services in partnership with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. It is a member of the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network, (http://www.alexianbrothershealth.org) which provides the nearly two million residents of Chicago's Northwest suburbs the most advanced medical care. Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital and the Alexian Bothers Hospital Network are nationally recognized for providing a continuum of care for stroke patients, from screening and acute treatment to post stroke rehabilitation. The Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago share a dedication to providing the finest, most comprehensive rehabilitation services for people with disabilities.

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) is making a difference in the world for people with disabilities. RIC provides world-class care to patients from around the globe for a range of conditions from acute brain and spinal cord injury to chronic arthritis, pain and sports injuries. RIC, founded in 1954, has been designated the "#1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America" by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991 and attributes its leading standard of care in part to its innovative research and discovery, particularly in the areas of bionic medicine, robotics, neural regeneration, pain care and better outcomes. RIC operates its 165-bed, flagship hospital in downtown Chicago, as well as a network of 30 sites of care located throughout the city and surrounding suburbs that provide additional inpatient care, day rehabilitation and outpatient services. RIC also maintains strategic alliances with leading healthcare providers throughout the state of Illinois and Indiana. For more information, visit http://www.ric.org.

Kinea Design is a committed practitioner of user-oriented observational design research. By understanding real users, in real tasks, set in real contexts, Kinea gains a thorough understanding of the terrain before it commences design. Kinea Design believes that its user-centered approach, backed by a proven team of human-machine design engineers, clinical researchers and experienced commercial experts, uniquely positions it to bring technology into practice.

The KineAssist will be used initially with up to 30 stroke patients participating in therapy research at Alexian. Individuals interested in being research subjects in the therapy program using the KineAssist Robot should call Linda Foster at 847-640-5600, ext. 3752. Research trials and clinical treatments using the KineAssist are also available at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's flagship hospital at 345 E. Superior Street in Chicago.

SOURCE Alexian Brothers Hospital Network