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A novel respiratory control and actuation system for upper-limb prosthesis users: Clinical evaluation study
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  • Vikranth Harthikote Nagaraja ,
  • Soikat Ghosh Moulic ,
  • Jennifer V. D'souza ,
  • Limesh M. ,
  • Peter Walters ,
  • Jeroen H. M. Bergmann
Vikranth Harthikote Nagaraja
Department of Engineering Science, Department of Engineering Science

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Soikat Ghosh Moulic
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Jennifer V. D'souza
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Limesh M.
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Peter Walters
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Jeroen H. M. Bergmann
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The most widely-used active upper-limb (UL) prostheses worldwide are body-powered (BP), which is a two-century-old technology. Despite their affordability and functional benefits to users, these devices are prone to poor outcomes for many patients. Additionally, BP devices have witnessed limited improvements compared to their externally-powered counterparts. Literature indicates a strong need for appropriate prosthetic solutions for children and adolescents. Our previous work introduced a first-of-its-kind breathing-powered UL prosthesis (“Airbender”) that can overcome several limitations of the current BP systems (e.g., restricted operation space, user discomfort caused by the harness to which the cables are attached). Users can regulate their breathing, and this controllable airflow is subsequently used to power a small (purpose-built and optimised) Tesla turbine that can accurately control the opening and closing of the prosthetic hand. The current work explores device usability in children and adolescents with a UL difference (n = 15). Further, we gathered feedback, suggestions, and satisfaction levels from the study participants and their parents on breathing as a modality of controlling a prosthetic device. The collected responses and study observations were subjected to qualitative and statistical analysis. This study showcases real-world testing of a breathing-powered prosthesis and proves that UL-deficient children and adolescents can indeed operate the device (i.e., volitionally open or close) with their breathing input. The perceived level of difficulty in opening or closing the device tended to be on the ‘easy’ side. We report generally favourable feedback obtained from participants and their parents. Additionally, design suggestions and satisfaction levels concerning different device attributes help us involve the key stakeholders in co-creating and proactively developing a robust product development roadmap. This work is aligned with creating a step-change in the potential BP prosthesis options for patients in the future, propelled by a need-led approach.