Nowadays, knee surgery is a relatively common procedure used to treat cartilage defects and/or soft tissue lesions, osteoarthritis with total or unicondylar knee arthroplasty, and cruciate ligaments (ACL/PCL) injuries.
After surgery, each patient undergoes a long period of rehabilitation (typically from 6 weeks to 6 months) consisting of long sessions of physiotherapy and medical training therapy carried out by qualified personnel. This procedure is long and expensive, and may cause work-related pathologies to physiotherapists because of the significant workload it implies. These considerations highlight the high potential benefits that robotic solutions could bring in this field. As a matter of fact, if technology could provide an effective tool to assist the physiotherapist, the rehabilitation time and cost could be reduced, with important benefits for both the patients and the operators.
Although some knee rehabilitation devices are already available, they have proved to be not very effective and, in some situations, could even harm the patient. The main reason of this is related to the over simplistic and non-physiological assumptions used for the device design: the first one is to consider the knee as a 1 Degree of Freedom joint enabling only flexion-extension. Second, these devices constrain the knee to “blindly” perform movements with very few adaptations to the patients’ anatomy and muscular reaction.
This project aims to solve this issue by investigating it from a biomechanical and robotic perspective, considering human physiology patient-specific knee kinematics and kinetics as the starting point of the design.