Upper-extremity movement is limited in individuals with muscular weakness. This paper describes a novel, articulated upper-extremity orthosis, the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), which helps people overcome this movement deficit.
This prospective, case-controlled study involved an ambulatory patient with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and 2 nonambulatory patients with spinal muscular atrophy type II. The WREX uses elastic bands to negate the effects of gravity; it allows a person with neuromuscular weakness to move their arm in 3 dimensions. The WREX can be fixed on a brace for ambulatory patients and on the wheelchair for nonambulatory patients. Assessment was performed through motion analysis (with and without the WREX), clinical examination, and qualitative questionnaire.
Motion analysis showed a marked improvement in upper-extremity function with the WREX. The questionnaire illustrated enhanced functionality with the WREX including self-feeding, fine motor control, and use of a television remote control. Enhanced functionality resulted in improved quality of life by increasing participation in school, raising self-esteem, and increasing social interaction. Two unexpected outcomes were increased security with trunk inclination and amelioration of the effects of contractures.
The WREX provided an increase in functionality and improved the quality of life of the patients. The device has become an integral part of the lives of the 3 patients.
Level of Evidence
Level III in Therapeutic Studies-Investigating the Results of Treatment.