Afferent stimulation for improving below-knee amputee gait and reaction to instability

Andrew J Burke, University of Rhode Island


Below-knee amputees (BKA) have lost not only the structural support and control of the missing limb, but also sensory perception that provides integral information about position and stability. This deficit can cause situations where instability is not quickly acknowledged, balance may be lost and injury can occur due to a fall. These situations have a negative impact on the BKA's quality of life and make it harder for the BKA to perform biped walking: the basic task for daily life. Some effects of lower-extremity amputation include asymmetry in unilateral BKA gait, postural sway, and increased muscle activity that causes the amputee to expend more energy. Also, excess pressure in the prosthetic socket has been reported to cause pain in the residual limb for amputee subjects. The amputee must use remaining sensory perception of the residual limb and healthy afferent nerve information of the sound limb to acknowledge unstable situations. In this research, a method of supplying afferent stimulation to the residual limb is shown to have the ability to intuitively relay sensory information and alleviate some deficits inherent in amputee gait. As a result, the capacity to provide feedback may also improve the quality of life by improving their walking. To do this for BKA subjects, an afferent stimulation device has been developed. A protocol has been written to test the device, record data and analyze the effect through a biomechanics study. This study is two-fold as it verifies the usefulness of vibrotactile feedback for afferent stimulation and provides biomechanics data for further study of BKA gait.

Subject Area

Biomedical engineering|Electrical engineering

Recommended Citation

Andrew J Burke, "Afferent stimulation for improving below-knee amputee gait and reaction to instability" (2011). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI1497468.