Design and Evaluation of a Knee-Extension-Assist
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Quadriceps muscle weakness is a condition that can result from a wide variety of causes, from diseases like polio and multiple sclerosis to injuries of the head and spine. Individuals with weakened quadriceps often have difficulty supplying the knee-extension moments required during common mobility tasks. Existing powered orthoses that provide an assistive knee-extension moment are large and heavy, with power supplies that generally last less than two hours. A new device that provides a knee-extension-assist moment was designed to aid an individual with quadriceps muscle weakness to stand up from a seated position, sit from a standing position, and walk up and down an inclined surface. The knee-extension-assist (KEA) was designed as a modular component to be incorporated into existing knee-ankle-foot-orthoses (KAFO). The KEA consists of three springs that are compressed, as the knee is flexed under bodyweight, by cables that wrap around a sheave at the knee. The KEA returns the stored energy from knee flexion as an extension moment during knee extension. During swing or other non-weight bearing activities, the device is disengaged from the KAFO by decoupling the sheave from the KAFO knee joint, allowing free knee joint motion. A prototype was built and mechanically tested to determine KEA behaviour during loading and extension and to ensure proper KEA function. For biomechanical evaluation, able-bodied subjects used the prototype KEA while performing sit-to-stand, stand-to-sit, ramp ascent, and ramp descent tasks. The KEA facilitated sitting and standing, providing an average of 53 % of the required extension moment for the two participants, which allowed one participant to reduce quadriceps usage by 38 % and the other to perform sit-to-stand in a slower and more controlled manner that was not possible without the KEA. KEA use during ramp gait caused an overall increase in quadriceps activation by 76 %, on average, with use. Future efforts will be made to modify the design to improve functionality, especially for ramp gait, and to reduce device size and weight.
Cite this work
Alexander Spring (2011). Design and Evaluation of a Knee-Extension-Assist. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/5870