Volume 51 Number 7, 2014
Pages 1077 — 1094
Abstract — The ability to negotiate stairs is important for community access and independent mobility but requires more effort and strength than level walking. For this reason, previous attempts to utilize functional neuromuscular stimulation (FNS) to restore stair navigation after spinal cord injury (SCI) have had limited success and are not readily generalizable. Stair descent is particularly challenging because it requires energy absorption via eccentric muscle contractions, a task not easily accomplished with FNS. This article presents the design and initial testing of a hybrid neuroprosthesis with a variable impedance knee mechanism (VIKM-HNP) for stair descent. Using a 16-channel percutaneous FNS system, a muscle activation pattern was synthesized to descend stairs with the VIKM-HNP in a step-by-step fashion. A finite state control system was implemented to deactivate knee extensor stimulation and utilize the VIKM-HNP to absorb energy and regulate descent speed. Feasibility testing was performed on one individual with complete thoracic-level SCI. Stair descent was achieved with maximum upper-limb forces of less than 45% body weight compared with previously reported value of 70% with FNS only. The experiments also provided insight into design requirements for future hybrid systems for stair navigation, the implications of which are discussed.
Key words: assistive technology, bracing, finite state control, functional electrical stimulation, functional neuromuscular stimulation, hybrid orthosis, neuroprosthetics, rehabilitation engineering, spinal cord injury, stair descent.
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Last Reviewed or Updated Thursday, November 13, 2014 11:22 AM