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The effects of ground-irregularity-cancelling prosthesis control on balance over uneven surfaces.

  • Author(s): Chiu, Vincent L
  • Voloshina, Alexandra S
  • Collins, Steven H
  • et al.

Over half of individuals with a lower-limb amputation are unable to walk on uneven terrain. Using a prosthesis emulator system, we developed an irregularity-cancelling controller intended to reduce the effect of disturbances resulting from uneven surfaces. This controller functions by changing the neutral angles of two forefoot digits in response to local terrain heights. To isolate the effects of the controller, we also programmed a spring-like controller that maintained fixed neutral angles. Five participants with transtibial amputation walked on a treadmill with an uneven walking surface. Compared with the spring-like controller, the irregularity-cancelling controller reduced ankle torque variability by 41% in the sagittal plane and 64% in the frontal plane. However, user outcomes associated with balance were mostly unaffected; only trunk movement variability was reduced, whereas metabolic rate, mediolateral centre of mass motion, and variabilities in step width, step length and step time were unchanged. We conclude that reducing ankle torque variability of the affected limb is not sufficient for reducing the overall effect of disturbances due to uneven terrain. It is possible that other factors, such as changes in step height or disturbances to the intact limb, play a larger role in difficulty balancing while walking over uneven surfaces.

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