Towards design of a stumble detection system for artificial legs

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Recent advances in design of powered artificial legs have led to increased potential to allow lower limb amputees to actively recover from stumbles. To achieve this goal, promptly and accurately identifying stumbles is essential. This study aimed to 1) select potential stumble detection data sources that react reliably and quickly to stumbles and can be measured from a prosthesis, and 2) investigate two different approaches based on selected data sources to detect stumbles and classify stumble types in patients with transfemoral (TF) amputations during ambulation. In the experiments, the normal gait of TF amputees was perturbed by a controllable treadmill or when they walked on an obstacle course. The results showed that the acceleration of prosthetic foot can accurately detect the tested stumbling events 140-240 ms before the critical timing of falling and precisely classify the stumble type. However, the detector based on foot acceleration produced high false alarm rates, which challenged its real application. Combining electromyographic (EMG) signals recorded from the residual limb with the foot acceleration significantly reduced the false alarm rate but sacrificed the detection response time. The results of this study may lead to design of a stumble detection system for instrumented, powered artificial legs; however, continued engineering efforts are required to improve the detection performance and resolve the challenges that remain for implementing the stumble detector on prosthetic legs. © 2011 IEEE.

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IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering