Quick Looks: Research and Development to Support People with Limb Loss/Limb Difference

April is Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month. According to the Amputee Coalition, more than 2 million Americans are living with limb loss or limb difference, and about 28 million are at risk for amputation surgeries in any year due to injuries, infections, cancers, and other conditions. Pressure injuries are one type of injury that is a risk factor for amputation surgeries. These are injuries that can happen when force is applied to the surface of the skin, either constant pressure or a dragging force between the skin and another surface, and often happen over bony parts of the body like hips, heels, and ankles. People with diabetes and mobility disabilities may be at higher risk for pressure injuries. If these injuries become deep enough or infected, they can lead to amputations.

Research and development to support the independence of people with limb loss and limb difference includes innovative prosthetic controls like robotics and myoelectrics and interventions to treat phantom pain. There are also projects focused on monitoring for and preventing pressure injuries. Here is a quick look at some of the current research and development projects funded by NIDILRR in this area:

Robotics

Multifunctional Robotic Assistive Arm (mR2A) for Activities of Daily Living Assistance. This Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) is developing a multifunctional robotic assistive arm that can be mounted on a mobile or fixed base with a set of grippers to assist with activities of daily living and mobility assistance for people with upper or lower limb dysfunction.

Lightweight and Affordable Soft Knee Exoskeletons to Enhance Independent Living for Broad Lower-Limb Disability Populations. This DRRP develops soft wearable exoskeletons and assistive control algorithms to monitor, augment, and compensate for the loss of gait function of people with lower limb disabilities.

Technologies to Evaluate and Advance Mobility and Manipulation (TEAMM) Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC). This RERC develops technologies to evaluate and advance mobility and manipulation for people with movement disabilities, including a novel prosthetic leg with powered and passive modes, and a low-cost prosthetic arm system targeted for individuals with amputation in low resourced communities.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Patient-Centered, Home-Based Technologies to Assess and Treat Motor Impairment in Individuals with Neurologic Injury. This RERC promotes rehabilitation engineering-based devices, strategies, techniques, and interventions that can facilitate activity and mobility following neurologic injuries including wearable upper extremity exoskeletons.

Prosthetics and prosthetic controls

Development of a Myoelectric Implant for Intuitive Prosthesis Control. This Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project is developing software to work with an implantable device that listens to signals from muscles in an amputated limb to control a prosthesis.

High-Energy, Light-Weight Battery to Power Next Generation Wearable Assist Prosthetics. This Phase II SBIR project develops an increased life cycle, high-energy, cost-efficient prototype battery designed specifically to support the next generation of powered prosthetic devices.

The Bimodal Ankle for Mobility and Stability of Prosthesis Users. This Phase II SBIR develops and evaluates a prototype bimodal ankle prosthesis, which can provide flexibility for walking mobility and rigidity for standing stability for people with lower limb prostheses.

Toe Joint Articulation in Passive and Powered Prostheses for Enhancement of Walking and Long-Term Health. This Field Initiated Project improves the design of prosthetic feet, both passive and powered, to restore the biological toe function in a way that aids individuals with limb loss as they navigate various slopes, uneven terrain, and daily obstacles.

Pressure injury prevention

Improving Rehabilitation and Reducing Re-Occurrence of Diabetic Foot Ulcers by Shifting Plantar Pressure with Exo-Tendon and Exo-Skeletal Footwear Systems. This Phase II SBIR develops and commercializes novel exoskeleton footwear which reduces plantar loading, accelerates and improves rehabilitation after diabetic foot ulcers, and minimizes its reoccurrence to help people resume activities of daily living, remain employed and engaged in their communities, and prevent amputation.

Phantom pain

A Non-invasive Intervention (BreEStim) for Management of Phantom Limb Pain After Limb Amputation. This Field Initiated Project compares the effectiveness of an innovative intervention of breathing-controlled electrical stimulation to conventional electrical stimulation in management of neuropathic phantom limb pain in patients after traumatic and nontraumatic amputation of upper and lower limbs.

These are just a few of the current and completed projects supported by NIDILRR to research and develop prosthetics, robotics, and other solutions for people with limb loss and limb difference. Explore more projects or dive into the literature in our REHABDATA database!

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