Expert Voices

How long have upper-arm orthoses existed?

Upper-arm orthotic devices debuted in the U.S. in 1930s during the polio epidemic. These devices became part of the standard of care within clinic settings the 1960s. The first IP piling for the Abilitech™ Assist and its novel ability to support the shoulder with springs and counterbalance was filed in December 2016.

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How important are caregivers to improved upper-arm function?

Support from caregivers has been shown to be an important determinant of improved upper-limb function. Beyond caregivers’ abilities to address the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of those they care for, caregivers have been shown to be a determinant of improved upper-limb function in certain conditions, such as in the context of a stroke rehabilitation.

The Abilitech Assist is designed to be used in the presence of a trained caregiver who can help don and doff the device and periodically adjust.

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Which innovations are changing upper-arm orthotics?

Today’s upper-limb orthotic innovations increasingly consist of lightweight materials, advanced sensors and/or microprocessors, high-density batteries, and powerful actuation systems. Some even contain onboard memory to capture and communicate usage and biometric data.

Abilitech Medical leverages many of these advances in material science and has made its Abilitech Assist serve a body part otherwise unsupported by powered upper limb orthotics — the shoulder. The Abilitech™ Assist supports both the shoulder and the elbow, allowing certain individuals with minimal strength to have independent movement.

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How important is it for assistive devices to be used at home?

Many kinds of at-home technologies exist to enhance the independence of persons with disabilities.

Research surrounding home-based adaptations and assistive technology meant for older adults has shown that these technologies can substitute for and supplement formal care, and in most cases the initial investment in adaptations and assistive devices is recouped through subsequently lower care costs throughout a user’s life.

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What’s the average financial cost of an upper-extremity injury?

The cost of an upper-extremity injury depends on multiple factors, including severity of injury, any surgeries involved, underlying neuromuscular condition, length of stay, and more. The average direct acute care costs associated with SCI injuries in the US are estimated to be $181,093 U.S., a number which does not include indirect costs including, but not limited to, paying for outside care and lost wages and productivity.

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Why is providing shoulder assistance meaningful and unique?

Shoulders are involved with just about every body movement. Whether it’s getting out of bed, raising a fork or spoon to the mouth or reaching to get a glass from the cabinet, they are extremely consequential to individuals’ abilities to engage in their environments. Notably, the shoulder is responsible for maintaining the widest range of motion of any joint in the human body.

Shoulder function helps regulate arm mobility and arm stability. The glenohumeral joint and the segments of the shoulder girdle facilitate the former. Shoulder muscles, in combination with the glenohumeral capsule, labrum and ligaments, are responsible for the latter.

The Abilitech™ Assist is the only body-worn device that provides a hybrid assist at the shoulder and elbow.

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How much arm motion do people need in order to work?

The level of arm mobility required to work depends on the job, but many roles exist that can be performed with weaker functioning or non-functioning arms. In the U.S., individuals must be able to perform the tasks essential to the job, with or without reasonable accommodation, to qualify for protection from the ADA.

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What does an Abilitech Assist tele-evaluation consist of?

Abilitech Medical’s tele-evaluation is a free and confidential assessment that occurs virtually through HIPAA-compliant video conferencing on a patient’s camera-enabled computer, smartphone or tablet.

The evaluation typically lasts 30 minutes. Patients are asked to perform specific movements demonstrating their unaided upper-limb strength and ranges of motion. They’ll also be asked general questions about their medical history, insurance details and contact information.

It is suggested that caregivers be on hand for the evaluation, though their involvement is not necessarily imperative. Patients are asked to share any accommodations they need for hearing impairments, non-English language translations or similar prior to the evaluation.

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