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Innovations - Get A Grip

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News May 2018

The NeoMano from Neofect is an assistive device for patients with primarily higher-level cervical spinal-cord injuries (SCI) who need to increase their grip in order to participate in activities of daily life.

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Opening doors, gripping a glass and other everyday tasks could soon be much easier for high-functioning quadriplegics and others with limited hand dexterity, thanks to a new prototype glove that debuted at January’s annual Consumer Electronics Show technology trade show in Las Vegas. The NeoMano from Neofect is an assistive device for patients with primarily higher-level cervical spinal-cord injuries (SCI) who need to increase their grip in order to participate in activities of daily life.

The Three-Jaw Chuck

Mainly targeted to those with a SCI between C5 and C7, the glove fits over the user’s index finger, middle finger and thumb to form what is technically called the “three-jaw chuck” or power grip. A small battery-operated motor attached near the thumb is controlled with a remote by the user’s other hand to grip and/or release an object. Neofect Clinical Manager and occupational therapist Lauren Sheehan, OTD, OTR/L, has been helping test the prototype and says the control doesn’t take much pressure from the user to operate. She says the user’s palm, elbow or side of the hand can be used to activate the functions. Sheehan says the NeoMano gives the user plenty of gripping function, and the prototype is still evolving.

“It can close enough to pick up a relatively small object. It’ll really
  just depend on the flexibility of the user’s
hand,” she says. “Some of our testing in this next phase is really to decide what the qualifications of a user’s abilities and flexibility of that soft tissue, the bone structure and the positioning of the hand needs to be.”

Neofect is planning to do a Kickstarter campaign with the device and hopes to have it out on the market by the end of this year or in early 2019. Meanwhile, the NeoMano continues to undergo evaluation.

“The testing piece is really going to be important to try and hone in on and fine-tune those user characteristics so that we can best direct it to the most appropriate user, so that when they get it and deploy it, it really works for their function and their routines,” Sheehan says.

Thumb & Controller

Those currently helping Sheehan test the NeoMano think the concept would be beneficial for them and others but would like to see some adjustments on the final product. One of the testers is Chris Rutheford, who has Volkmann’s contracture, compartment syndrome and a tendon transfer. He says the glove was “very easy to use” and helped increase his grip strength, which would help him better hold tools such as a hammer. Rutheford says he would like to see a few changes, such as making the glove waterproof. However, the primary adjustment he’d like to add would be the ability for the glove to bend the thumb.

“It did not have any thumb assist, which would be of enormous help to me,” Rutheford says. “A cable that helped the thumb bend in would be ideal.”

Sheehan says thumb function has been a focus of many people. Testers have said they would like to see a sturdier thumb post to create better opposition in the grip. Meanwhile, Rachael Short, who has a C4 SCI, thinks the controller could be arranged better. Short says she found the glove easy to use and beneficial, but the grip and release button were “a little confusing to use.” She also wants to see some improvements in the actual glove.

“I think if the unit fit my hand better, it would be useful for therapy and strengthening, as well as functional activities,” Short says. “I would love to hold a camera again.”

Fine-Tuning

Sheehan says feedback like that is key to helping them make design changes that ensure the NeoMano is as usable to as many users as possible. Other changes to the final version of the glove could include what the force of the grip needs to be for the most function and what materials work best for traction.

“The response has largely been good from a user’s standpoint. What we’re continuing to formulate and fine-tune is who it’s going to be most appropriate for,” Sheehan says. “We really want to hone in on who is the best candidate, so it doesn’t end up in the hands of someone who is expecting something from it that it’s not able to provide.”

Tester Andrew Cole has some pretty straightforward and simple expectations for the NeoMano. Cole, who has traumatic peripheral nerve injury and reconstruction and elbow arthroplasty, says the most useful thing the glove does is allow him to hold items without thinking about it. 

“The cognitive energy it takes to maintain grasp keeps me from doing more with my right hand,” Cole says. “Using the glove as an assist would be great. Holding a beer would allow me to participate socially and not be worried about dropping it.”

For more information, visit neomano.neofect.com.

 

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Innovations - Get A Grip

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