Prosthetic hand image

In the first major study of its kind, researchers from the University of Salford have found the extent to which those with artificial arms and hands rely on their intact limbs.

Researchers used new techniques involving electronic sensors to look in detail at the daily activities of a group of people with one prosthetic hand over the course of a week.

Previously, clinicians have relied on data from self-reported questionnaires completed by prosthesis users about how they use their artificial limbs, but these are often unreliable or inaccurate according to the university.

The paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, confirms a widely held belief that prosthesis users rely heavily on their intact limb in their daily lives, potentially resulting in injuries.

The research team leader Laurence Kenney, Professor of Rehabilitation Technologies at the University of Salford, said: “Although it has widely been suspected that prosthesis users have a tendency to rely on their intact arm, this is the first time that objective and detailed data has been produced to confirm this is the case.

“Relying too much on one limb may lead to overuse injuries, and our findings are consistent with reports that upper limb amputees are more likely to experience such problems.”

The group of prosthesis users were from a range of ages and included people who had been born without hands, as well as those who had needed amputations.

Electronic sensors were placed on the wrists of both the prosthetic hand and the intact hand to measure continuous activities over seven days.

The technique gave researchers incredibly accurate data about how much they were using each of their hands, and the results were compared against a similar group of 20 people with both limbs intact.

The researchers found all of the prosthesis users showed an increased reliance on their intact hand, although they did find that those who had been using a prosthetic hand for longer did not rely on the intact hand as heavily.

Professor Kenney added: “While further work is needed, our new technique allows clinicians and researchers to understand for the first time how people with prosthetic limbs actually use them in their day to day lives. This technique may eventually lead to better ways of supporting people who have been given prosthetic limbs.”

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