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Barriers and facilitators to exoskeleton use in persons with spinal cord injury: a systematic review.

PURPOSE: Exoskeleton can assist individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI) with simple movements and transform their lives by enhancing strength and mobility. Nonetheless, the current utilization outside of rehabilitation contexts is limited. To promote the widespread adoption of exoskeletons, it is crucial to consider the acceptance of these devices for both rehabilitation and functional purposes. This systematic review aims to identify the barriers or facilitators of the use of lower limbs exoskeletons, thereby providing strategies to improve interventions and increase the adoption of these devices.

METHODS: A comprehensive search was conducted in EMBASE, Web of Science, Scopus, Cochrane, and PubMed. Studies reporting barriers and facilitators of exoskeleton use were included. The studies' quality was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool and undertook a thematic content analysis for papers examining the barriers and facilitators.

RESULTS: Fifteen articles met the inclusion criteria. These revealed various factors that impact the utilization of exoskeletons. Factors like age, engagement in an active lifestyle, and motivation were identified as facilitators, while fear of falling and unfulfilled expectations were recognized as barriers. Physical aspects such as fatigue, neuropathic discomfort, and specific health conditions were found to be barriers.

CONCLUSION: This systematic review provides a comprehensive overview of the barriers and facilitators to the use of exoskeleton technology. There are therefore still challenges to be faced, efforts must be made to improve its design, functionality, and accessibility. By addressing these barriers, exoskeletons can significantly improve the quality of life of people with SCI.

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