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VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
This Issue: The Returning Veteran | Table of Contents: Winter 2018 | Download this issue

Noteworthy Publications

Veterans use advanced DEKA (LUKE) arm to supplement conventional prostheses


 Researchers say Veterans with upper limb amputation would benefit most from using more than one type of prosthetic arm. <em>(Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Resnik.)</em>
Researchers say Veterans with upper limb amputation would benefit most from using more than one type of prosthetic arm. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Resnik.)

Researchers say Veterans with upper limb amputation would benefit most from using more than one type of prosthetic arm. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Resnik.)

Veterans with upper-limb loss can benefit from using an advanced prosthesis like the DEKA arm, at least for part of their day, say researchers at the Providence VA Medical Center in Rhode Island. In a study published in July 2017 in Prosthetics and Orthotics International, Dr. Linda Resnik and colleagues followed 17 Veterans as they used the DEKA prosthetic arm during a three-month trial of home use. The researchers wanted to find out if using an advanced artificial arm could substitute for or supplement the use of a conventional artificial arm.

Prior studies have looked at the amount of time amputees use or wear their prostheses. Resnik and her team believe that some people wear an artificial arm, but do not actively use it to complete tasks. For that reason, the researchers asked Veterans to keep daily diaries that recounted how much time they wore the DEKA arm and their own personal prostheses. Veterans were also asked to keep track of how much time they used each device, and for which tasks.

The study results suggest that Veterans find advantages in using different types of prostheses—both conventional and advanced—for different tasks. Examples of daily activities that study participants said they could do only with the DEKA arm include scratching their head, painting their nails, folding clothes, using a fork or knife, and chopping vegetables. Examples of activities that study participants said they could do only with a personal prosthesis include carrying groceries, rock climbing, heavy hammering, driving a car, and getting down on hands and knees.

New guidelines for rehabilitation of people who have lost an upper limb recommend the use of more than one type of prosthesis. Many amputees use both a body-powered device and a myoelectric device—a prosthetic arm that is controlled using electrical signals from the user's own muscles.

The DEKA arm—now marketed as the LUKE arm—is an advanced prosthetic arm that was developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corp. with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the Department of Defense. It is the first computer-driven artificial arm that is able to simultaneously perform different movements. It was approved by the FDA in 2014 for commercial use.

In 2017, two Veterans became the first VA patients to be prescribed the LUKE arm by VA. One was Purple Heart recipient Fred Downs. He was a platoon leader in Vietnam and lost his arm as a result of combat injuries. Downs, who had gone on to work for VA many years as the chief of prosthetics, noted in an interview with CNN's New Day that the LUKE Arm is a prime example of VA research that ultimately helps both Veterans and civilians.

In another study published in January 2018 in PLoS ONE, Resnik and her colleagues asked how upper-limb amputees fared using the DEKA arm, compared with a conventional prosthesis. They found that study participants had less perceived disability and felt more engagement in everyday household tasks when using the DEKA arm. However, initially, they were slower at performing tasks using the DEKA arm.


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