Exoskeletons have come a long way since General Electric designed the first one back in the 1960s. Today, these technological masterpieces are being utilized successfully by the healthcare sector, the military, and the tech industry. As far-reaching as the benefits of exoskeletons may be, it is important to be aware of any possible hindrances they present as well. For instance, in a medical emergency, an exoskeleton may get in the way of first responders, making it increasingly difficult for them to assess a patient and provide vital medical care.
Defibrillation requires unobstructed access to the chest
Sometimes, as a result of illness or severe injury, a person’s heart may stop beating. While CPR may suffice to save a life, paramedics may need to make use of a defibrillator to re-establish a productive heart rhythm. A defibrillator delivers a brief but potent electric shock to the heart to try to get it beating again. Whether performing manual CPR or using an automated external defibrillator (AED), clear access to the patient’s chest is required. If someone experiences cardiac arrest while wearing an upper-body exoskeleton, it may be necessary to disengage it in order to perform the potentially life-saving medical procedures.
Arm exoskeletons can interfere with IV placements
When attending to a medical emergency, paramedics are tasked with establishing what medicine to give, its dose, and also the best way to administer it. While all methods have merit, intravenous administration is not only swift, but it also boasts 100% bioavailability, which means that the drug remains unchanged when absorbed or metabolized. As the hand or wrist is among the most popular sites for IV cannulation, a first responder may have difficulty administering an IV to someone wearing an arm exoskeleton. The exoskeleton may not only hinder access to the arm to tie the tourniquet and insert the cannula; it may also make it difficult to move the arm as needed to allow the veins to fill with the IV solution. In case of emergency, an exoskeleton may have to be removed to make it easier for a paramedic to administer an IV.
Head and neck injury stabilization can be critical
Head and neck injuries can occur in a number of ways, including during motor vehicle accidents, or as a result of trips and falls, at-home accidents and physical assault. Pre-hospital care of a suspected head or neck injury includes securing the patient’s airway, stabilizing the head and spine, and attending to any severe external injuries to limit blood loss. If the patient is wearing an exoskeleton, all these tasks becoming increasingly difficult. An exoskeleton can also make it considerably harder for a paramedic to conduct a proper examination of a patient and take their vitals following illness or injury.
Exoskeletons have completely revolutionized various industries from across the globe. When it comes to medical emergencies, however, it may be necessary to have the device removed in order for first responders to provide vital medical care to ill or injured patients.
Karoline spent more than a decade working in healthcare, including three years as a first responder. Since starting a family, she has returned to her first love of writing, and contributes to a number of websites, writing on the topics that are important to her.
I only have a limited understanding of exoskeleton design and standard’s.Perhaps better standards will help ensure that these can be easily removed. Nevertheless I wonder why we are not using exoskeletons as part of emergency care where the exoskeleton could wrap around the patient securely to permit transport, in almost any conditions, monitor vital signs, and even deliver care enroute?
Hi Johannes, most exoskeletons are used to mobilize. Restricting movement I think can be done very well by a brace that can lock in place. So if we take a neck injury as the most common example of having to immobilize a patient while en route to a hospital, off the top of my head I think that a neck brace would do a better job. Alternatively, a snake like device with sensors could automatically wrap itself around the neck and lock in place, but that wouldn’t be an exoskeleton, but a sci-fi self-applying brace.
I also think that at this point exoskeletons are more mechanical. They are not designed to replace people but aid them. The way I am imagining it, a paramedic traveling with the patient will still be making all of the care delivery decisions while en route.