SMSR-funded study shows that use of mechanical glove leads to increased hand strength and improved ability to perform activities of daily living, in people with incomplete tetraplegia

Rehabilitation of the impaired hand function is a priority following SCI and intensive hand therapy is provided for individuals with SCI during the sub-acute stage of the injury.  However individuals with chronic SCI require orthotic and rehabilitation devices that can help with activities of daily living, help them to integrate back into the community and find employment.  One such device is the soft extra muscle (SEM) Glove that detects the intention to grip an object and 'strengthens' the hand to generate adequate grip force.

A clinical trial was undertaken to determine whether the SEM Glove has an orthotic and/or long-term rehabilitative effect on hand grasp function in individuals with chronic incomplete tetraplegia.  

It was shown that the participants benefited from using the glove, with study outcome measures showing improved strength and ability to perform activities of daily living.  Moreover, participants' testimonials demonstrated the usefulness of the glove therapy with many believing that it has significantly helped them  both as an assistive and rehabilitation tool in several activities.  Some said they could properly grasp and eat a burger, prepare tea, do gardening and vacuuming and so on, while others could confidently hold the hand rail while climbing the stairs - important for the prevention of falls.

The study was published in March 2020 in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, and is available at https://jneuroengrehab.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12984-020-00660-y

Videos from the study, demonstrating the function and effectiveness of the glove can be viewed at https://jneuroengrehab.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12984-020-00660-y#Sec25

In addition to information on the orthotic and rehabilitative potential of the glove, the results of this study will inform home-based self- administered therapy which is important for non-hospitalised patients with impaired hand function.

A second analysis, exploring the glove's possible effects on Neuroplasticity is underway and expected later in 2020.

The study was initiated by the Occupational therapy team at the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) and was supported by the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Charitable Fund (Ann Masson Research Award) and SMSR.