A Robotic Exoskeleton for Treatment of Crouch Gait in Children With Cerebral Palsy: Design and Initial Application

IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2017 Jun;25(6):650-659. doi: 10.1109/TNSRE.2016.2595501. Epub 2016 Jul 27.


Crouch gait, a pathological pattern of walking characterized by excessive knee flexion, is one of the most common gait disorders observed in children with cerebral palsy (CP). Effective treatment of crouch during childhood is critical to maintain mobility into adulthood, yet current interventions do not adequately alleviate crouch in most individuals. Powered exoskeletons provide an untapped opportunity for intervention. The multiple contributors to crouch, including spasticity, contracture, muscle weakness, and poor motor control make design and control of such devices challenging in this population. To our knowledge, no evidence exists regarding the feasibility or efficacy of utilizing motorized assistance to alleviate knee flexion in crouch gait. Here, we present the design of and first results from a powered exoskeleton for extension assistance as a treatment for crouch gait in children with CP. Our exoskeleton, based on the architecture of a knee-ankle-foot orthosis, is lightweight (3.2 kg) and modular. On board sensors enable knee extension assistance to be provided during distinct phases of the gait cycle. We tested our device on one six-year-old male participant with spastic diplegia from CP. Our results show that the powered exoskeleton improved knee extension during stance by 18.1° while total knee range of motion improved 21.0°. Importantly, we observed no significant decrease in knee extensor muscle activity, indicating the user did not rely solely on the exoskeleton to extend the limb. These results establish the initial feasibility of robotic exoskeletons for treatment of crouch and provide impetus for continued investigation of these devices with the aim of deployment for long term gait training in this population.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Exoskeleton Device*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / diagnosis
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / physiopathology*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Man-Machine Systems
  • Neurological Rehabilitation / instrumentation*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Treatment Outcome