Patients use the Lokomat


Spinal Cord Injury Model System Center


Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center




As a Model System Center, we provide all the essential components necessary to help our patients return to the community and lead productive lives, maximizing functional abilities, fostering independence, and preventing secondary complications.  We advance spinal cord care through clinical research that identifies new standards of care for the industry. We lead multiple independent and collaborative research projects that explore walking therapy technologies and deliver the most effective treatment to Advance Human Ability™

There are only 14 federally designated Spinal Cord Injury Model System locations in the United States, and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the only Midwest Regional Spinal Cord Injury Model System Center, one of the original five Model System Centers (partnering with Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial Hospital) designated in 1972.

The Benefits of a Model System


As a Model System, we provide the essential components necessary to help our patients return to the community and lead productive lives.

  • Commitment to ongoing communication with the referring physician and case manager
  • Early involvement of physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists while the patient is still in acute care
  • Dedicated neuroscience intensive care unit and specially trained staff
  • Acute spinal cord injury team available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Individualized plan of care for each patient, including surgery and rehabilitation
  • Re-evaluation services available as early as eight months post-injury and throughout the patient's lifetime
  • Specialized rehabilitation services: robot-assisted walking therapy, urology clinic, wheelchair and seating center and more unique SCI-centered programs 

Leading with Technology + Science


At the AbilityLab, spinal cord injury patients are among the first to participate in innovative treatments to bring greater independence and functional ability. Research findings are rapidly adopted into everyday practice for immediate patient benefit.

  • Robot-assisted walking therapy with the Lokomat® uses a robotic gait orthosis to support the patient as he or she walks on a body-weight-supported treadmill. A computer controls the pace of walking and measures the body's movement.
  • The prototype KineAssist™ walking and balance exercise system is a motorized platform with a "smart brace" that supports the patient's trunk and pelvis while standing. Because it allows patients to lean or swing without falling, it can help patients learn to walk again.
  • The BrainGate™ Neural Interface System has enabled some people with disabilities to perform basic tasks – such as checking email, typing messages, and adjusting the television or other environmental controls – by simply thinking about it.

Our goal is to maximize the potential for neurological recovery and to minimize and treat any associated conditions or complications with the hope of expediting recovery and rehabilitation for individuals with spinal cord injury.

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