Fatigue-free operation of most body-powered prostheses not feasible for majority of users with trans-radial deficiency

Mona Hichert*, Alistair N. Vardy, Dick Plettenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Body-powered prostheses require cable operation forces between 33 and 131 N. The accepted upper limit for fatigue-free long-duration operation is 20% of a users’ maximum cable operation force. However, no information is available on users’ maximum force. Objectives: To quantify users’ maximum cable operation force and to relate this to the fatigue-free force range for the use of body-powered prostheses. Study design: Experimental trial. Methods: In total, 23 subjects with trans-radial deficiencies used a bypass prosthesis to exert maximum cable force three times during 3 s and reported discomfort or pain on a body map. Additionally, subjects’ anthropometric measures were taken to relate to maximum force. Results: Subjects generated forces ranging from 87 to 538 N. Of the 23 subjects, 12 generated insufficient maximum cable force to operate 8 of the 10 body-powered prostheses fatigue free. Discomfort or pain did not correlate with the magnitude of maximum force achieved by the subjects. Nine subjects indicated discomfort or pain. No relationships between anthropometry and maximal forces were found except for maximum cable forces and the affected upper-arm circumference for females. Conclusion: For a majority of subjects, the maximal cable force was lower than acceptable for fatigue-free prosthesis use. Discomfort or pain occurred in ~40% of the subjects, suggesting a suboptimal force transmission mechanism. Clinical relevance: The physical strength of users determines whether a body-powered prosthesis is suitable for comfortable, fatigue-free long-duration use on a daily basis. High cable operation forces can provoke discomfort and pain for some users, mainly in the armpit. Prediction of the users’ strength by anthropometric measures might assist the choice of a suitable prosthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-92
JournalProsthetics and Orthotics International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • body-powered prosthesis
  • cable operation force
  • Upper-limb prosthetics


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