A review of technology, materials and R&D challenges of upper limb prosthesis for improved user suitability

Robbie Brack, Emeka Amalu

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Hand amputation significantly challenges one’s independence in carrying out daily activities. With the UK and Italy recoding circa 5200 and 3500 upper limb (UL) amputations (ULAs) yearly, respectively, and about 541,000 Americans losing ULs in 2005, incidence victims constitute a considerable proportion of our population and should be adequately supported. The use of upper limb prosthesis (ULP) offers amputees a new opportunity of living a quality life - but poses challenges on the physically and psychologically traumatised. With reports that up to 20% of adult UL amputees choose not to use a prosthesis, roughly 26% of adults and 45% of children and adolescents are dissatisfied with their devices and abandon them with reasons of poor solution to basic needs, a review of ULP for suitability has become crucial.

These include, to review UL prosthetic technology (PT), the materials used in the manufacturing of ULP, challenges in research and development of ULP, and to advise on the suitability of different devices to the needs of amputees.

They involve an extensive review of relevant literature and application of statistics to analyse data obtained from literature.

ULAs are characterised to show affected bones in seven types of amputations. The characterisation depicts key causes of incidences that lead to amputations while advising on device suitability. PT is classified in terms of cost, nature, functions/operations of each type of device while providing the design challenges. Users’ opinions on PT materials are analysed and used to suggest new materials for the next generation of the devices. R&D challenges hindering future developments of PT is reviewed and results used to identify characteristics for the next generation of the technology.

To increase user satisfaction and reduce device abandonment, amputees need useful information on the trend in PT and engineers need information about device field performance for improvements. The use of better performing ULP will improve users’ everyday lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-96
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Orthopaedics
Publication statusPublished - 25 Dec 2021

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