Researchers at the University of Missouri, Columbia recently developed a system to track hand use in people who use a hand prosthesis or have undergone a hand transplant.
The technology tracks hands’ movement, and monitors how people make use of their hands in their daily activities. These data could help in creating personalized treatment for patients, and also help clinicians track mobility and recovery in conditions that affect hand use, such as stroke and paralysis.
Although an array of technologies and methods have been developed to help amputees, losing a hand can make daily tasks very difficult. However, observing and noting how well an approach is actually effective for patients in their everyday life is important for enhancing such treatments to its optimal potential.
An important thing to study is how much someone uses their prosthesis or transplanted hand compared to their other hand. For this purpose, these researchers developed a system of movement sensors affixed to a person’s hands and upper arms. These sensors can track arm and hand use for the next several days, making the data much easier to capture.
‘We can bring people into a clinic or laboratory setting, and measure how they are doing with a prosthetic or hand transplant, but these observations are typically made under optimal and artificial conditions, and therefore might not accurately show us how people are truly functioning during their everyday lives,’ said Scott Frey, one of the researchers. ‘These sensors, which continuously record movements over multiple days while people go about their lives, have the ability to revolutionize treatments by providing real world data that will help us develop personalized approaches to treat traumatic hand loss.’
The researchers tested the devices in volunteers with hand transplants or prostheses and tracked their movements for three days. ‘Most activities performed by a typical adult involve a fairly evenly balanced reliance on both hands,’ Frey said. ‘Over the course of a normal day, roughly 55% of people’s activities involve the dominant hand and 45% involve the non-dominant hand. Now, we have evidence that shows experienced prosthesis users rely on their prosthetic hand during about 20% of daily activities and use their uninjured limb for the remaining 80%. Hand transplant recipients exhibit a more balanced pattern of limb use that is closer to what we see in healthy adults, although not quite at the 55%/45% split.’
Although these data appears to lean towards the benefits of a hand transplant, the researchers however pointed out that this technique is not for everyone. Shortage of donors, infection risks and the side-effects of long-term immunosuppressant are all factors to consider.
By Marvellous Iwendi.