1. Development of a functional electrical stimulation (FES) device for promotion of hand function in incomplete tetraplegia (TETRA GRIP)

Location: The School of Design, Engineering and Computing, Bournemouth University. National Clinical FES Centre, Salisbury District Hospital.

INSPIRE Grant: £22,500

Date/duration: July 2013/36 months

Abstract of Research

Research has demonstrated that FES based training devices can lead to improved hand and arm function following spinal cord injury. However, there is a need to develop an improved device and control techniques to enable routine use outside the clinical setting. This PhD project will aim to produce a system that can be easily used by people with a range of ability following tetraplegia. New stimulation techniques using ‘current steering’ will be used to automatically fine tune the movement produced, removing variations due to electrode position, fatigue and spasticity. While the principle use of the device will be for training hand function, it is envisaged that it may also be used as a long-term orthosis. A feasibility study/clinical trial will be used to demonstrate the device in clinical use. The principle goal is to increase the functional independence of people with C5, C6 or C7 incomplete tetraplegia.

The expected outcome

The aim of the project is to produce a practical system that will enable effective training of upper limb function in tetraplegia. The training device will enable greater upper limb therapy within hospital and continuity of that therapy between post injury rehabilitation and discharge home. While it is expected that the principle use of the device will be as a training orthosis leading to therapeutic gains, it is also expected that the device will have utility as a practical orthosis, enabling long term enhanced function. It is expected that the device will enable increased independence and hence improved quality of life.