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Feasibility of a bimanual, lever-driven wheelchair for people with severe arm impairment after stroke

Brendan W Smith, Daniel K Zondervan, Thomas J Lord, Vicky Chan, David J Reinkensmeyer
Conference Proceedings: Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society 2014, 2014: 5292-5
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Individuals with severe arm impairment after stroke are thought to be unable to use a manual wheelchair in the conventional bimanual fashion, because they cannot grip and push the pushrim with their impaired hand. Instead, they are often taught to propel a wheelchair with their good arm and leg, a compensatory strategy that encourages disuse and may cause asymmetric tone. Here, we show that four stroke survivors (9, 27 50 and 16 months post stroke) with severe arm impairment (upper extremity Fugl Meyer scores of 21, 17, 16 and 15 of 66 respectively) were able to propel themselves overground during ten, 3.3 meter movement trials, using a specially designed lever-driven wheelchair adapted with a splint and elastic bands. Their average speed on the tenth trial was about 0.1 m/sec. These results suggest that individuals with stroke could use bimanual wheelchair propulsion for mobility, both avoiding the problems associated with good-arm/good-leg propulsion and increasing the number of daily arm movements they achieve, which may improve arm movement recovery.

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