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Upper Limb Prosthetic Rehabilitation for Occupational Therapists: Understanding Technology

Upper Limb Prosthetic Rehabilitation for Occupational Therapists: Understanding Technology
September 30, 2015
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The Hand

As we talk about technology, what are we comparing it to? We are talking about upper limb technology and comparing it to the function of the hand. Take a second and look down at your own hands. As I am looking at mine, I can see that they are very different. I use these together in space but when I consider the function of my left hand, I notice that it is very complicated, multifunctional, and I have got at least 27 of degrees of freedom. This hand is capable of active function and can generate high forces, but it is also capable of passive function. It can resist high loads and I can use it for weight bearing. My hand is soft and it is soft to the touch. I use it to hold the objects and to hold my husband's hand or to embrace my grandchildren, but it also consists of hard structures that are necessary for the essential function of the hand. It consists of muscle and bone. With all of this and so much more, the hand is very challenging to replicate with one single piece of technology. Think about all the different things that you do with your hands and that you expect your patients to be able to do. Typically no single prosthesis can actually address the multiple deficits associated with upper limb loss. 

Technology Options

What technology options are available to address amputation? One option is always no technology. Another option is prepatory technology. Preparatory technology is essential to our clients' success so we may utilize preliminary devices, socket fittings, and things that we can actually fabricate out of common articles in our clinic to help our patients prepare for the use of a prosthesis. Some of our patients will use passive aesthetic functional technology and some will use activity specific technology. Some of our patients will use body-power technology and some will use technology that is externally powered or powered by a source outside of our human bodies. Finally, some patients may use hybrid technologies, which is a little bit of everything encapsulated in one prosthesis.

 


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