Can you imagine how challenging simple daily tasks become with just the strength of one arm or hand? Suddenly things like dressing or eating become difficult. But that’s what many stroke patients struggle with every day.
Hand paresis or weakness is a common consequence of stroke. In fact, over 70 percent of stroke survivors experience an upper limb deficit. Although half of them improve over time with the help of rehabilitation, many stroke patients end up having a non-functional arm.
The loss of arm function is a major problem for stroke patients. Hence, over the years, researchers have developed hand exoskeletons to improve or restore hand function.
The hand exoskeleton that can assist in daily life
Researchers from London have reviewed a hand exoskeleton designed to help stroke patients in their activities of daily living (ADLs). This hand exoskeleton is an assistive device. Unlike therapeutic devices, assistive devices are more lightweight and portable and respond to volitional commands from the user (when the user ”chooses to”).
Like other assistive devices, this hand exoskeleton is lightweight and compact. It’s also self-contained, which merely means that its electronics and power are included on the device. It also has an adjustable thumb, a set of finger cups which makes it easier to grasp, and an embedded system which makes it usable even without power.
Researchers tested the efficacy of the design by having patients with upper extremity weakness perform tasks representative of ADL. One of the tasks was removing the lid from a bottle. Without the device, it took the patients 38 seconds while with the hand exoskeleton, it only took an average of 13.2 seconds per bottle. Grasping a bottle, took the patients 25.9 seconds with the weak hand while it took just 5.1 seconds for the paretic hand with the exoskeleton.
What this means to you
The results of the study suggest that the hand exoskeleton, especially with the improved design and features, can be a promising device if you suffer from upper extremity weakness. This new design is not yet for sale.
The lead author of this study is Benjamin W. Gasser of QEII Centre, London, UK.