Epidemiologic Overview of Individuals with Upper-Limb Loss and Their Reported Research Priorities

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More than 6,600 one-page surveys were sent to individuals throughout the country with upper-limb loss or absence. Of those surveys, 2,477 were returned, and demographic information was recorded. A more comprehensive seven-page survey was then sent to the respondents who agreed to participate. A total of 1,575 of these surveys were returned: 1,020 by body-powered users, 438 by electric users and 117 by bilateral users of prostheses.

The results of the surveys indicate users of body-powered and electric prostheses identify surprisingly similar elements as necessary in the design of a better upper-limb prosthesis. These qualities include additional wrist movement, better control mechanisms that require less visual attention and the ability to make coordinated motions of two joints. Desired near-term improvements for body-powered prostheses include better cables and harness comfort, whereas those for electric prostheses include better gloving material, better batteries and charging units, and improved reliability for the hand and its electrodes. This article discusses the specific functions that various levels of upper-extremity amputees gain from their prostheses as well as the device features that aid or detract from their functions.

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