Background: Upper-extremity movement is limited in individuals with muscular weakness. This paper describes a novel, articulated upper-extremity orthosis, the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), which helps people overcome this movement deficit.
Methods: This prospective, case-controlled study involved an ambulatory patient with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and 2 nonambulatory patients with spinal muscular atrophy type II. The WREX uses elastic bands to negate the effects of gravity; it allows a person with neuromuscular weakness to move their arm in 3 dimensions. The WREX can be fixed on a brace for ambulatory patients and on the wheelchair for nonambulatory patients. Assessment was performed through motion analysis (with and without the WREX), clinical examination, and qualitative questionnaire.
Results: Motion analysis showed a marked improvement in upper-extremity function with the WREX. The questionnaire illustrated enhanced functionality with the WREX including self-feeding, fine motor control, and use of a television remote control. Enhanced functionality resulted in improved quality of life by increasing participation in school, raising self-esteem, and increasing social interaction. Two unexpected outcomes were increased security with trunk inclination and amelioration of the effects of contractures.
Conclusions: The WREX provided an increase in functionality and improved the quality of life of the patients. The device has become an integral part of the lives of the 3 patients.
Level of evidence: Level III in Therapeutic Studies-Investigating the Results of Treatment.