Design and testing of a functional arm orthosis in patients with neuromuscular diseases

IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2007 Jun;15(2):244-51. doi: 10.1109/TNSRE.2007.897026.


The objective of this study was to determine the utility of a passive gravity-balanced arm orthosis, the Wilmington robotic exoskeleton (WREX), for patients with neuromuscular diseases. The WREX, a four-degrees-of-freedom functional orthosis, is energized by rubber bands to eliminate gravity and is attached to the wheelchair. The development and clinical testing of WREX is described in this report. Seventeen patients (14 boys and 3 girls) with muscular disabilities participated in the study. Ages ranged from 4 to 20 years. Criteria for inclusion included a weakened arm, use of a wheelchair, the ability to grasp and release objects, and the ability to provide feedback on device use. Testing consisted of administering the Jebsen test of hand function without WREX and then testing again after approximately two weeks of wearing the WREX orthosis. The timed results of each task within the test then were compared. Specific tasks related to vertical movement required less time to perform with the WREX. A large number of subjects were able to perform the Jebsen tasks with the WREX, where they were unable to perform the task without the WREX. Patients can benefit from WREX because it increases their performance in daily living activities and makes many tasks possible. The range-of-motion in the patients' arms increased considerably, while the time required to complete some of the Jebsen test tasks decreased. Most patients were very receptive to WREX, although a few were ambivalent.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arm / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / diagnosis
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / physiopathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / rehabilitation*
  • Muscular Dystrophies / diagnosis
  • Muscular Dystrophies / physiopathology*
  • Muscular Dystrophies / rehabilitation*
  • Orthotic Devices*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Robotics / methods
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome