Hong Kong Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Centre Pilot Programme
In 2018, Chow Tai Fook Medical Foundation (the Foundation) funded a one-and-a-half-year pilot programme launched by the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) to support the allied health professionals on the trial use and research of “robotics exoskeleton” for rehabilitation at the Hong Kong Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Centre of the MacLehose Medical Rehabilitation Centre. The study ranges from surgical treatment, post-operative care to the design, testing and adaptation of rehabilitation programmes. First of its kind in Hong Kong, this will accelerate rehabilitation of patients suffering from traumatic spinal cord injuries, helping them get back on their feet.
According to a recent study conducted by the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology at the University of Hong Kong, there are approximately 200 new cases of traumatic spinal cord injury in Hong Kong every year. However, traditional treatment requires the use of external braces and relies on upper extremity support, which makes the training more strenuous. Funded by the Foundation, the introduction of robotics exoskeleton for rehabilitation training will help patients repeat the same movement and relearn to stand or even walk, so that their leg muscles can be properly trained, thus enhancing the level of rehabilitation training. The programme also supports the allied health professionals in building Hong Kong’s first database of spinal cord injury patients, which will record the clinical distribution of patients and their rehabilitation progress, and in turn enhance the rehabilitation services for spinal cord injury in Hong Kong. In addition, the system can integrate and analyze patient data to be submitted to and included in a global database of spinal cord injury patient statistics, which helps accelerate technology advancement in Hong Kong.
The Foundation is pleased to see the success of the project and the subsequent contributions by the government and other organisations which benefit more patients. In addition, the spinal cord injury rehabilitation team running the pilot programme was awarded the “Outstanding Team Award” by the Hospital Authority in 2020, recognising the team’s remarkable performance and achievements. During the 18-month programme, the team conducted more than 1000 sessions of training, benefiting many patients including renowned rock-climbing instructor and one of Hong Kong Ten Outstanding Young Persons in 2014 Mr. Lai Chi-Wai.
The Hong Kong Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Centre Pilot Programme has brought light to the rehabilitation journey of patients suffering from spinal cord injury. The introduction of ‘robotic exoskeletons’ has helped paraplegic patients get back on their feet and relearn to walk. The programme results are satisfactory. We certainly hope that this form of advanced rehabilitation can gradually be adopted within the public healthcare system to benefit more patients
I forgot how to stand up at the very beginning and was like a baby who needed to learn to walk and adapt again. Following a period of training, I could walk for half an hour with the assistance of the robotic exoskeleton. I have not only increased the amount of physical activity with the use of exoskeleton for greater health benefits, but also improved my balance control and blood circulation. When I put on the exoskeletons, my son was surprised to see how tall his father can be. Being able to face others at eye level has also boosted my social confidence