Huang, Helen [faculty advisor, Department of Biomedical Engineering]
Prosthetic; Prosthesis; Myoelectric
Prosthetics dates back thousands of years, with some of the earliest recorded devices dating back to the ancient Egyptians. The devices are used to replace a limb that may have been lost due to a variety of reasons. Of course, much has changed since the basic wooden devices. What is exceptionally fascinating about prosthetics and orthotics is that the field is always changing and become more advanced; it truly has infinite potential. Prosthetics has evolved over many centuries to be what it is today, but where will the technology go in the future?
Focusing on one area of prosthetics, specifically upper extremity devices, one can clearly see that much improvement can be made. Prostheses for upper extremity patients are traditionally passive (purely cosmetic), body powered (operated by movement of shoulders or upper arm), or myoelectric (controlled by signals from patient’s muscles). Each of these types of devices has its advantages and disadvantages, but no significant changes have been made since the 1980s.
Through conducting independent research, interning at Nunnery Orthotics and Prosthetics in North Kingstown, RI, as well as consulting with numerous prosthetists and other experts in the field, I have come up with three possible directions for the field of upper extremity prosthetics: sensory feedback, wireless electrode transmission, and simultaneous control of devices. This project has allowed me to further understand the challenges that prosthetists and their technicians face when trying to meet the needs of a patient, as well as the incredible benefits that patients receive through this new technology. Each of these directions will require many years of research and study to perfect, and it could potentially be years before anything is available to the public.
I hope that through the completion of this project I have caused many more to think about the population of people using prosthetic devices, and how to make their lives easier to live each day. I chose to complete this project for a few different reasons. Not only did I wish to expand my knowledge of the field of prosthetics, but I also really wanted to learn about where the future may be going to potentially conduct my own research someday.