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A review of assistive devices for arm balancing

A G Dunning, J L Herder
IEEE ... International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics: [proceedings] 2013, 2013: 6650485
24187302
Due to neuromuscular disorders (e.g., Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy) people often loose muscle strength and become wheelchair bound. It is important to use muscles as much as possible. To allow this, and to increase independency of patients, an arm orthosis can be used to perform activities of daily life. The orthosis compensates for the gravity force of the arm, allowing people to perform movements with smaller muscle forces. For patients, the aesthetics of the orthosis is one of the critical issues. This paper presents the state-of-the-art in passive and wearable active arm orthoses, and investigates how to proceed towards a suitable structure for a wearable passive arm orthosis, that is able to balance the arm within its natural range of motion and is inconspicuous; in the ideal case it fits underneath the clothes. Existing devices were investigated with respect to the body interface, the volume, and the workspace. According to these evaluation metrics it is investigated to what extent the devices are wearable and inconspicuous. Furthermore, the balancing principle of the devices, the architecture, force transmission through the devices, and alignment with the body joints are investigated. It appears that there is only one wearable passive orthosis presented in literature. This orthosis can perform throughout the natural workspace of the arm, but is still too bulky to be inconspicuous. The other passive orthoses were conspicuous and mounted to the wheelchair. Except one, the wearable active orthoses were all conspicuous and heavy due to a large backpack to enclose the actuators. They also could not achieve the entire natural workspace of the human arm. A future design of an inconspicuous, wearable, passive arm orthoses should stay close to the body, be comfortable to wear, and supports pronation and supination.

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