The challenge was to create a device that accurately measures intrinsic hand muscles, which allow humans to play a piano or perform any task that requires dexterity and precision.
"Neuromuscular disorders like spinal cord injuries, Lou Gehrig's, diabetes, multiple sclerosis - all these diseases affect the intrinsic hand muscles", Shuai "Steve" Xu said, who invented the new device with three other graduates at Rice University.
Anybody who has ever had a checkup knows how doctors routinely test strength - hold up a hand, push this way, push that way. The assessment is by feel, nothing quantifiable. Xu said previous devices lack the repeatability to be useful and do not adjust for small hands or unusual morphologies.
PRIME, or Peg Restrained Intrinsic Muscle Evaluator, is intended to fill that gap. The device has three elements: a pegboard restraint, a force transducer enclosure and a PDA custom-programmed to capture measurements.
In a five-minute test, a doctor uses pegs to isolate a patient's individual fingers. "You wouldn't think it works as well as it does, but once you are pegged in, you can't move anything but the finger we want you to," inventor Matthew Miller said.
A loop is fitted around the finger, and when the patient moves it, the amount of force generated is measured. "PRIME gets the peak force," Xu said. "Then the doctor can create a patient-specific file with all your information, time-stamped, and record every single measurement."
Xu hopes it will help hospitals and rehabilitation clinics compare the effectiveness of surgical interventions and diagnose neuromuscular degenerative diseases.
MEDICA.de; Source: Rice University