TH SafeGait

Mike Brooks, who suffers from spinal stenosis and arthritis, uses the SafeGait 360 during a physical therapy session at Thompson Hospital.

Thompson Hospital recently became the first in the state to offer revolutionary SafeGait technology in a full-time outpatient setting.

The device’s state-of-the-art technology, developed by Victor-based Gorbel Medical, can “unweight” and provide fall protection to physical therapy patients as they practice walking, improve their strength and over­come balance issues.

Designed to accommodate a patient weighing up to 350 pounds, the SafeGait 360° Balance and Mobility Trainer uses an overhead device that slides along a monorail-like track. It can help persons who are working to overcome challenges including stroke, multiple sclero­sis, Parkinson’s disease, amputations and traumatic brain injuries.

Customized Treatment

Before the SafeGait 360° even arrived at Thompson, pa­tients who heard it was coming began booking their appointments, says the hospital’s Director of Rehabilita­tion Services Carole Drake. The first to use it was a man who had suffered a stroke and was anxious about the possibility of falling dur­ing previous physical therapy sessions. Drake says the system, which can be adjusted to a patient’s individual needs, provided reassurance when the man needed it.

“Every time the machine caught him, he gained confidence and pushed himself that much harder,” Drake says, noting that the man told the therapy team he felt he accomplished more in his first SafeGait 360° session than he ever had during physical therapy.

Mike Brooks of Canandaigua was also among the first patients to use the SafeGait 360° at Thompson. Health concerns, including spinal stenosis and arthritis, have been making it increas­ingly difficult for him to get around.

“It takes some of the weight off my knee and ankles,” Brooks says.

A Safeguard

Drake says the system’s dynamic fall protection software provides protec­tion during standing, sitting, stair and floor tasks. The therapist, meanwhile, can keep both hands free by using a wireless controller strapped to his or her forearm.

In addition, SafeGait’s patient management software allows therapists to track patient progress by exporting the data to the patient’s health records and comparing it to previous data in order to customize treatment plans.

Nancy Buerman, a physical therapist for 35 years, says the SafeGait 360° is a welcome addition to the tools available in Thompson’s Rehabili­tation Services Department because it takes the concern about falling away from the patient.

“It gives you the freedom to try more difficult tasks, especially floor-to-stand and resistance walking — something you normally wouldn’t try with someone who has poor balance,” she says.