2022/10 A unilateral robotic knee exoskeleton to assess the role of natural gait assistance in hemiparetic patients



Hemiparetic gait is characterized by strong asymmetries that can severely affect the quality of life of stroke survivors. This type of asymmetry is due to motor deficits in the paretic leg and the resulting compensations in the nonparetic limb. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the effect of actively promoting gait symmetry in hemiparetic patients by assessing the behavior of both paretic and nonparetic lower limbs. This paper introduces the design and validation of the REFLEX prototype, a unilateral active knee–ankle–foot orthosis designed and developed to naturally assist the paretic limbs of hemiparetic patients during gait.


REFLEX uses an adaptive frequency oscillator to estimate the continuous gait phase of the nonparetic limb. Based on this estimation, the device synchronically assists the paretic leg following two different control strategies: (1) replicating the movement of the nonparetic leg or (2) inducing a healthy gait pattern for the paretic leg. Technical validation of the system was implemented on three healthy subjects, while the effect of the generated assistance was assessed in three stroke patients. The effects of this assistance were evaluated in terms of interlimb symmetry with respect to spatiotemporal gait parameters such as step length or time, as well as the similarity between the joint’s motion in both legs.


Preliminary results proved the feasibility of the REFLEX prototype to assist gait by reinforcing symmetry. They also pointed out that the assistance of the paretic leg resulted in a decrease in the compensatory strategies developed by the nonparetic limb to achieve a functional gait. Notably, better results were attained when the assistance was provided according to a standard healthy pattern, which initially might suppose a lower symmetry but enabled a healthier evolution of the motion of the nonparetic limb.


This work presents the preliminary validation of the REFLEX prototype, a unilateral knee exoskeleton for gait assistance in hemiparetic patients. The experimental results indicate that assisting the paretic leg of a hemiparetic patient based on the movement of their nonparetic leg is a valuable strategy for reducing the compensatory mechanisms developed by the nonparetic limb.”