Study Examines Satisfaction, Usability, Desirability of DEKA Arm

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A team of researchers from the Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island; and Brown University conducted a study of the DEKA Arm System, developed by DEKA Research and Development, Manchester, New Hampshire, to describe, compare, and evaluate perceptions of satisfaction and usability of the arm, which has been dubbed the Luke Skywalker arm. The results were published June 2 in the journal PLOS ONE. 

Photograph of the DEKA GEN 3 arm courtesy of Stewart Coulter, DEKA Research & Development.

The study had two phases. The in-laboratory (Part A) phase was completed by 32 participants with amputations (50 percent transradial, 38 percent transhumeral, and 13 percent shoulder). The home trial (Part B) phase was completed by 18 participants, 16 (89 percent) of whom were prosthesis users at baseline. Measures of satisfaction, usability, and user preferences were administered. Responses were compared for those who completed Part A only and those who completed Parts A and B. The participants' preferences for the DEKA Arm over their personal prostheses and the proportion of participants who wanted to receive a DEKA Arm were evaluated. Relationships between satisfaction, usability, and desire to receive a DEKA Arm were examined.

At the end of Part A, 22 of the 32 participants (69 percent) who completed in-laboratory training wanted to receive a DEKA Arm and five (16 percent) said they might want one. At the end of Part B, 14 of 16 prosthesis users who completed the home trial (88 percent) preferred the overall function of the DEKA Arm, 13 (81 percent) preferred the DEKA hand function, and 14 (88 percent) preferred the DEKA wrist function to their own prostheses. In contrast, 14 (88 percent) preferred the weight and 13 (81 percent) preferred the look of their own prostheses. Most aspects of the DEKA Arm were rated easy to use. No items were rated as difficult. Users were satisfied with most aspects of the DEKA Arm, except for the weight, shoulder appearance, and harnessing. There were few differences in perceived usability or satisfaction by configuration level. Findings about the desire to receive a DEKA Arm pertain only to those who completed the study. Non-completers viewed the DEKA Arm less favorably than completers. Satisfaction was strongly related to participants' expressed desire to receive a DEKA Arm in the future.

The study authors stated that to maximize the likelihood of adoption of the DEKA Arm, the findings suggest that both an in-laboratory and a home use trial may be useful prior to finalizing a recommendation for prescription.