Physical Therapy for Amputees Improves with Bionic Arm

Earlier this year, the FDA approved the world’s first bionic arm! This is a technology breakthrough not just for amputees, but for the physical therapists and occupational therapists working to help patients regain a full range of motion. The prosthetic arm, a product of DEKA Research and Development Corporation, can perform multiple, simultaneous powered movements controlled by electrical signals from EMG electrodes. If that sounds like the stuff of science fiction, that’s because it is! In fact, the inventor of the bionic arm, Dean Kamen and his research team nicknamed it, “Luke”, after Luke Skywalker.

Therapists interested in the nuts and bolts behind prostheses, will be fascinated by how this arm works: it translates signals from the patient’s muscles to perform complex tasks. EMG electrodes detect electrical activity caused by the contraction of muscles close to where the prosthesis is attached. The electrodes send the electrical signals to a computer processor in the prosthesis that translates them to a specific movement—some as hard to grasp.

Therapists Take Note: Different kinds of amputations benefit from this bionic arm

The DEKA Arm System is unique because its prosthesis so closely resembles the natural motion of the arm. Here are a few things that occupational therapists helping amputee patients find easier with the bionic arm:

  • Using keys and locks
  • Preparing food and feeding oneself
  • Using zippers
  • Brushing hair and teeth

Physical therapists will benefit from reading the FDA’s review of clinical information relating to the bionic arm, including a study in which all DEKA participants performed household and self-care tasks. **The study found that approximately 90 percent of study participants were able to perform activities with the DEKA Arm System that they were not able to perform with their current prosthesis. Though it cannot be configured for limb loss at the elbow or wrist joint, physical therapists will be amazed to consider that the arm can be configured at the shoulder joint, mid-upper arm, or mid-lower arm.

The FDA’s marketing of the first prosthetic arm is a cool concept to wrap your arms around…

And making waves for more than just physical therapists working in New Hampshire, where this amazing new technology was created. DEKA Integrated Solutions is located in Manchester, nestled among dozens of exciting New England towns that travel healthcare professionals love visiting. American Traveler Allied offers therapy jobs from coast to coast, in all 50 U.S. States! Call 1-800-617-0608 or apply online to find out how you can work with cutting edge technologies that allow allied healthcare professionals to grow their clinical skills and expertise!

**Information from this article was taken from the FDA’s press release on the bionic arm, as well as CNN’s reporting on the Deka Arm System

08-15-2014