Mechanical Design and Feasibility of a Finger Exoskeleton to Support Finger Extension of Severely Affected Stroke Patients

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Abstract

In this paper we presented the mechanical design and evaluation of a low-profile and lightweight exoskeleton that supports the finger extension of stroke patients during daily activities without applying axial forces to the finger. The exoskeleton consists of a flexible structure that is secured to the index finger of the user while the thumb is fixed in an opposed position. Pulling on a cable will extend the flexed index finger joint such that objects can be grasped. The device can achieve a grasp size of at least 7 cm. Technical tests confirmed that the exoskeleton was able to counteract the passive flexion moments corresponding to the index finger of a severely affected stroke patient (with an MCP joint stiffness of k = 0.63Nm/rad), requiring a maximum cable activation force of 58.8N. A feasibility study with stroke patients (n=4) revealed that the body-powered operation of the exoskeleton with the contralateral hand caused a mean increase of 46° in the range of motion of the index finger MCP joint. The patients (n=2) who performed the Box & Block Test were able to grasp and transfer maximally 6 blocks in 60 sec. with exoskeleton, compared to 0 blocks without exoskeleton. Our results showed that the developed exoskeleton has the potential to partially restore hand function of stroke patients with impaired finger extension capabilities. An actuation strategy that does not involve the contralateral hand should be implemented during further development to make the exoskeleton suitable for bimanual daily activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1268-1276
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE transactions on neural systems and rehabilitation engineering
Volume31
Early online date8 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Assistive devices
  • Exoskeleton
  • Finger extension
  • Wearable

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