St. Mary’s Pioneers Robotic-Assisted Therapy in Pediatric Neuro-Rehabilitation Program

St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children, New York’s largest provider of post-acute care to children and young adults with medical complexity, became the city’s first certified Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) program for children more than 20 years ago. Today, St. Mary’s is pioneering a new “first” in pediatric neuro-rehabilitation, with the recently announced launch of a program of robotic-assisted physical therapy. Through the generous support of the New York City Council capital budget, St, Mary’s has deployed a suite of cutting-edge equipment for the treatment of brain and spinal cord injury. When combined with a broad range of existing treatments and expertise, St. Mary’s is seeing successes in the program that signal great potential for the future.

For the first time in the New York City region, four sophisticated types of neuro-rehab equipment are now available in one location to pediatric patients. The Erigo tilt table provides lower extremity passive stepping while in an upright position. This allows early upright weight bearing to reduce the effects of immobility following injury. The Lokomat provides robotic-assisted gait training (walking therapy), and is the next phase of recovery for patients with mobility impairment. The system incorporates software and video-game technology to motivate patients. The ArmeoSpring provides spring-assisted arm/hand rehabilitation using software programs and virtual-reality gaming technology. The Nexstim Navigated Brain Stimulation device provides non-invasive brain mapping to show whether there are pathways available from the brain to the arms and legs that may allow improved movement with therapy. Pre-and post-testing captures neural progress and changes from the impact of robotics and therapy.

St. Mary’s Neuro-Rehabilitation Program is comprised of neuropsychology, physiatry, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, in collaboration with nursing, therapeutic recreation, speech/ language pathology, respiratory therapy, and social work. Using an interdisciplinary approach, St. Mary’s program has been shown to accelerate a patient’s recovery. With the addition of robotic-assisted therapy, patient progress can take even more dramatic “steps forward.”

“Based on our initial work, we are encouraged that robotic-assisted therapy can make valuable contributions towards improved outcomes for children dealing with brain or spinal cord injuries,” commented Edwin Simpser, MD, St. Mary’s president and chief executive officer. “St. Mary’s ability to offer pediatric patients a full suite of therapeutic neuro-rehabilitation equipment is one location is an extraordinarily useful new asset.”

St. Mary’s has embarked on a collaborative research initiative with leading medical and rehabilitation centers to assess advances in pediatric neuro-rehab care, with the long-term goal of improving diagnosis, prognosis, and outcomes for patients with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.