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Huge donation brings cutting-edge tech to Bambino Gesù

Child dressed as superhero in hospital bed

Ground Picture | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 12/16/23

Vatican's Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital will launch two projects that will expand its services to diagnose illness and help children regain the ability to walk.

A recent donation of €2.5 million to Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital, the Italian children’s hospital under the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the Holy See, will fund two projects that will introduce innovative technologies for diagnostics and treatment of young patients. One project will utilize a new robot that can help children with certain conditions regain the ability to walk, while the other is cutting-edge technology that allows easier and faster diagnoses. 

According to a press release, the donation was made by the Rome Foundation, an independent nonprofit that works towards the development of medical science. Their donation will see the projects install the robotic device for motor rehabilitation in the Palidoro headquarters, on the Lazio coast, while the diagnostic machine will be located in the Gianicolo headquarters, in Rome. 

Franco Parasassi, president of the Rome Foundation, commented on the donation: 

“Thanks to Bambino Gesù for the priceless work [it] carries out with dedication and extreme professionalism in favor of the health of the smallest and most fragile patients.”

A robot that helps kids walk

The first project involves a sophisticated machine called “Lokomat,” which works to rehabilitate the nervous and skeletal muscle system. They have used one in Bambino Gesù for years, but the new model “V6” is said to represent an “evolution” of the previous models and will strengthen the hospital’s rehabilitation care offerings

The “Lokomat” is made up of four components: an exoskeleton that is worn by the child, a treadmill on which the child walks, a system that can lighten the weight of the exoskeleton as the child walks, and a virtual reality system that gives the child a VR area to walk around and explore. The VR aspects give the patients small objectives to achieve, getting them moving while keeping them engaged in the rehabilitation process, which can often take a very long time.

The video below shows the “Lokomat” in action, with a patient strapped into the exoskeleton, strengthening his leg muscles while absorbed in the video game.

A machine for fast, accurate diagnoses

The second project will expand Bambino Gesù’s offerings in the field of nuclear medicine, through the installation of a PET–CT (or PET–TAC) machine. This is the most advanced diagnostic system for the early identification of tumors. It is, in essence, a “hybrid” diagnostic that can simultaneously reveal to doctors both the anatomy and function of an organ, through 3D imaging. 

In oncology the machine is used to determine the stage of a tumor and evaluate the response to therapies; but it is also used in cardiology, neurology and the study of infectious-inflammatory processes. The machine, which looks similar to an MRI machine, can be seen in the promotional video below.

Tiziano Onesti , president of the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital, commented on the donation from the Rome Foundation: 

“Once again the Foundation led by President Parasassi has proven not only generous but also far-sighted, financing projects with a high innovative and welfare value. Both clinical and scientific activity will be strengthened by these two major projects whose completion represents a challenge for our hospital. Investments in technological innovation are essential to guarantee the quality and safety of our hospital’s care in the future.”

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