Use and evaluation of assistive technologies for upper limb function in tetraplegia.

Rosti Readioff* (Corresponding Author), Zaha Kamran Siddiqui, Caroline Stewart, Louisa Fulbrook, Rory J O’Connor, Edward Kenneth Chadwick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Context: More than half of all spinal cord injuries (SCI) occur at the cervical level leading to loss of upper limb function, restricted activity and reduced independence. Several technologies have been developed to assist with upper limb functions in the SCI population.
Objective: There is no clear clinical consensus on the effectiveness of the current assistive technologies for the cervical SCI population, hence this study reviews the literature in the years between 1999-2019.
Methods: A systematic review was performed on state-of-the-art assistive technology that supports and improves function of impaired upper limbs in cervical SCI populations. Combinations of terms covering assistive technology, SCI and upper limb were used in the search which resulted in a total of 1770 articles. Data extractions were performed on the selected studies which involved summarising details on the assistive technologies, characteristics of study participants, outcome measures, and improved upper limb functions when using the device.
Results: A total of 24 articles were found and grouped into five categories, including; neuroprostheses (invasive and non-invasive), orthotic devices, hybrid systems, robots, and arm supports. Only a few selected studies comprehensively reported characteristics of the participants. There was a wide range of outcome measures and all studies reported improvements in upper limb function with the devices.
Conclusions: This study highlighted that assistive technologies can improve functions of the upper limbs in SCI patients. It was challenging to draw generalisable conclusions because of factors such as heterogeneity of recruited participants, wide range of outcome measures and the different technologies employed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-820
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number6
Early online date19 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Statement
This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under Grant EP/R035091/1.

Data Availability Statement

Supplemental data for this article can be accessed


  • Assistive technology
  • tetraplegia
  • spinal cord injury
  • upper limb


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