Active Functional Electrical Stimulation (Active FES) system developed with support from SMSR

The technology has the potential to make assistive devices more user-friendly and effective.

For many people living with a Spinal Cord Injury, the loss of hand function is one of the most devastating consequences of their injury.  Many daily living tasks such as feeding, bathing and dressing become difficult without the normal function of the hands.  Intricate movements which may be taken for granted but are required for various object manipulations are impaired with people with tetraplegia.  These impairments of hand function significantly reduce independence making an individual reliant on a caregiver for even the most basic activities of daily living.

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a technique of using a small electrical current to activate muscle nerves in such a way to accomplish a useful movement.  The technique has been shown to lead to improvements in movement. In the current usage of FES, patients do not have complete control of when the device starts and stops. This means that the device does not work according to a patient's movement intention.  The research team at Stoke Mandeville, supported by SMSR, have developed and tested a system that allows FES to work in accordance with the patient's intent. For example, when the patient attempts to move, the FES starts and helps to support the movement; when the patient stops, the FES stops. The technology has the potential to make assistive devices more user friendly and effective.

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