Recently commercialized powered prosthetic arm systems hold great potential in restoring function for people with upper-limb loss. However, effective use of such devices remains limited by conventional (direct) control methods, which rely on electromyographic signals produced from a limited set of muscles. Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR) is a nerve transfer procedure that creates additional recording sites for myoelectric prosthesis control. The effects of TMR may be enhanced when paired with pattern recognition technology. We sought to compare pattern recognition and direct control in eight transhumeral amputees who had TMR in a balanced randomized cross-over study. Subjects performed a 6-8 week home trial using direct and pattern recognition control with a custom prostheses made from commercially available parts. Subjects showed statistically better performance in the Southampton Hand Assessment Procedure (p = 0.04) and the Clothespin relocation task (p = 0.02). Notably, these tests required movements along 3 degrees of freedom. Seven of 8 subjects preferred pattern recognition control over direct control. This study was the first home trial large enough to establish clinical and statistical significance in comparing pattern recognition with direct control. Results demonstrate that pattern recognition is a viable option and has functional advantages over direct control.
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