"These kids have a real problem with their hands," saidJenna Desmarais, a senior at Rice majoring in mechanicalengineering. "The fingers and wrists are locked into a sort ofclaw-like position. Even after surgery to correct it, they needphysical therapy to get stronger." The team's rehabilitation device, the Dino-Might, was inspired bytheir mentor, Gloria Gogola, a pediatric hand and upper-extremitysurgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Houston. She correctsthe condition, known as spastic wrist flexion deformity, andrestores wrist extension by surgically removing a tendon from theunderside of the wrist and attaching it to the upper portion. After surgery, the wrist and its associated muscles and tendons,though straightened, are weak and must be exercised to restorenear-normal use. |
Gogola wanted a rehabilitation device thatsecurely positions the patient's limb, senses and records itsstrengths and provides a workout for the weakened wrist. Dino-Mightprompts the child to appropriately adjust his or her movements witha computer game starring an animated dinosaur. Along with Desmarais, the team consists of bioengineering majorsJessica Joyce and Allison Post and mechanical engineering majorsKurt Kienast, Lawrence Lin and Leslie Miller. "It's a game, essentially, but one that's connected to eightstrength gauges," said Joyce, who devised the software for thedevice. "By playing the game, the child is telling us howstrong she is and how well she can use her wrist and hand.
With thegame as an incentive, we're learning the patient's strong points,keeping a record of them and making them stronger at the sametime." On the display screen, the patient is given an angular route and isasked to follow it as closely as possible. Using a graphical userinterface (GUI) and a data acquisition device, the researchers areable to record results of the patient's movements while the resultsare being displayed in real time. "There have been similar devices in use, but Dr. Gogola hasn'tbeen satisfied with them," Joyce said.
"Something, somefeature she wants to use, is always missing. What's novel here isthe completeness, all in one package -- the force sensors, the armrestraint, the stand, the hand restraint, the GUI." The team has already tested the device on three patients inGogola's clinic and used the results to recalibrate the sensors. "Every time the device is used on a new patient, it's adjustedand customized to fit that individual child," Desmarais said."The information we're giving Dr. Gogola is accurate for thatspecific patient.
The doctor isn't getting a general idea but aprecise picture of that boy or girl." The device might also be adjusted for use by older patientssuffering from stroke and spinal cord injuries. Gogola plans to useit this summer on her pediatric patients and report her findings tothe team at Rice. Watch a video demonstration of Dino-Might: youtu.be/KWBglUDK4X4.
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