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Critical Reviews™ in Biomedical Engineering
SJR: 0.243 SNIP: 0.376 CiteScore™: 0.79

ISSN Print: 0278-940X
ISSN Online: 1943-619X

Critical Reviews™ in Biomedical Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevBiomedEng.2013007887
pages 161-181

Design, Control, and Sensory Feedback of Externally Powered Hand Prostheses: A Literature Review

Aimee Cloutier
Human-Centric Design Research Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas
James Yang
Human-Centric Design Research Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas


In recent years, there has been a steep rise in the quality of prostheses for patients with upper limb amputations. Researchers have begun to identify methods of making prosthetic hands both functional and cosmetically appealing, in contrast to past designs. Many improvements have occurred because of novel design strategies, such as the use of underactuated mechanisms, which allow for more degrees of freedom (DOF) or help reduce the weight of the prosthesis. The increase in functionality is also due in large part to advancements in control strategies for prosthetic hands. One common control method, using electromyographic (EMG) signals generated by muscle contractions, has allowed for an increase in the DOF of hand designs and a larger number of available grip patterns with little added complexity for the wearer. Another recent improvement in prosthetic hand design instead employs electroneurographic (ENG) signals, requiring an interface directly with the peripheral nervous system (PNS) or the central nervous system (CNS). Despite the recent progress in design and control strategies, however, prosthetic hands are still far more limited than the actual human hand. This review outlines the recent progress in the development of electrode-based prosthetic hands, detailing advancements in the areas of design, sensory feedback, and control through EMG and ENG signals (with a particular focus on interfaces with the PNS). The potential benefits and limitations of both control strategies, in terms of signal classification, invasiveness, and sensory feedback, are discussed. Finally, a brief overview of interfaces with the CNS is provided, and potential future developments for prosthetic hand design are discussed.

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