South Korean researchers propose the design for an innovative new wearable medical device meant to assist spinal cord injury patients in achieving greater hand function.
There have been plenty of orthotics and prosthetics engineered but they focus mostly on material and strength and not affordability. This group of researchers points out that very few finger prosthetics have been created for successful functionality in patients.
The orthosis is developed to act like an exosuit buy using the electromyography (EMG) signals of the muscle it send the users intended action to the controller and help them perform the intended action.
The device is 3D printed in PLA and consists of the forearm cuff (which has a dorsal and volar splint), hand, and finger ring parts. The device costs around $230 to make, and that is supposed to decrease further in the future.
“When the wrist is extended by the linear motor, the nylon thread tightens, which strengthens the tenodesis grip. Thus, wrist extension leads to the simultaneous flexion of the interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints of each finger including thumb,” state the researchers.
Users can grasp objects when the motor is activated—emphasizing one of the main features that sets this device apart as more people can use the device—especially patients with more severe SCI and lack of wrist control.
In 2019 from March to April ten patents with spinal cord injuries were participating in a study. Working with the participants the researchers noted that they had ‘significantly improved’ hand function and received good feedback on the ease of use. The researchers also expect even better results as the patients become more comfortable with the system.
“Furthermore, if we optimize the orthosis in terms of volume and adjustments, it can be used in the clinic soon and extended to other neurologically injured people, such as stroke or brachial plexus injury patients,” concluded the researchers, following the study.
“It is still an early stage of research, and some areas need to be improved. However, this 3D-printed myoelectric hand orthosis seems to be cost-effective and promising to utilize as an alternative to conventional devices. We hope that this study will be the cornerstone of research on assistive devices using 3D printing technology.”
O’neal, Bridget. “South Korea: 3D Printed Myolectric Hand Orthotics Improve Hand Function for Spinal Cord Injury Patients.” 3DPrint.Com, 2020, 3dprint.com/262062/south-korea-3d-printed-myolectric-hand-orthotics-improve-hand-function-spinal-cord-injury-patients/.