Risk management and regulations for lower limb medical exoskeletons: A review

Yongtian He, David Eguren, Trieu Phat Luu, Jose L. Contreras-Vidal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Gait disability is a major health care problem worldwide. Powered exoskeletons have recently emerged as devices that can enable users with gait disabilities to ambulate in an upright posture, and potentially bring other clinical benefits. In 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration approved marketing of the ReWalk™ Personal Exoskeleton as a class II medical device with special controls. Since then, Indego™ and Ekso™ have also received regulatory approval. With similar trends worldwide, this industry is likely to grow rapidly. On the other hand, the regulatory science of powered exoskeletons is still developing. The type and extent of probable risks of these devices are yet to be understood, and industry standards are yet to be developed. To address this gap, Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience, Clinicaltrials.gov, and PubMed databases were searched for reports of adverse events and inclusion and exclusion criteria involving the use of lower limb powered exoskeletons. Current inclusion and exclusion criteria, which can determine probable risks, were found to be diverse. Reported adverse events and identified risks of current devices are also wide-ranging. In light of these findings, current regulations, standards, and regulatory procedures for medical device applications in the USA, Europe, and Japan were also compared. There is a need to raise awareness of probable risks associated with the use of powered exoskeletons and to develop adequate countermeasures, standards, and regulations for these human-machine systems. With appropriate risk mitigation strategies, adequate standards, comprehensive reporting of adverse events, and regulatory oversight, powered exoskeletons may one day allow individuals with gait disabilities to safely and independently ambulate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-107
Number of pages19
JournalMedical Devices: Evidence and Research
StatePublished - May 9 2017


  • Ekso
  • FDA
  • HAL
  • Indego
  • ReWalk
  • Rex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering


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