In Austria, around one hundred thousand people are no longer able to walk without assistance, be it as a result of an accident or illness. The psychological and physical effects on these people are devastating and around half of them are confined to wheelchairs.
In cooperation with business consultant Gregor Demblin, Austrian Lotteries has brought exoskeleton technology to Austria. Developed by the US-based firm Ekso Bionics®, the exoskeleton is a battery-driven “suit” that is worn over clothing and uses electric motors to move the legs. It is a life-changing technology that allows people to walk again despite paralysis.
With Austrian Lotteries’ support, potential users in Austria were able to test the exoskeleton in fall 2018. Since December 2018, it has been available for use in physiotherapy outpatient treatment at the Ambulatorium Döbling clinic in Vienna. The assisted gait training strengthens the cardiovascular system, internal organ functions and remaining musculature. It also slows down the bone resorption that commonly occurs following paralysis. In some cases, if patients still have enough residual muscle, the exoskeleton can even help them to learn to walk again on their own.
In the meantime, three further sponsors have followed Austrian Lotteries’ example, and more than half of the required funding (300,000 euros) has been secured. Additional sponsors are now being sought to bring the cost of treatment down from over 200 euros to 90 euros per session.