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Muscle Atrophy Reduction System

Participants:

  1. Giancarlo DiMeo,
  2. Brian Franco,
  3. Erik Johnsen,
  4. Robert Wilson

Team Advisor: Dr. Christopher Anderson

The incidence of forearm injuries in the United States is high, with approximately 645,000 people sustaining radius and ulna fractures annually. For forearm fractures where bone alignment remains unaffected, cast immobilization is traditionally prescribed for an average period of 6 weeks to allow fracture union to occur. However, complications such as disuse muscle atrophy and bone demineralization are commonly observed during the fracture healing process, and these side effects may require the individual to undergo several months of physical therapy after cast removal to restore normal strength and motor function to the affected forearm. To address these complications, the proposed Forearm Muscle Atrophy Reduction System integrates surface electrodes into a modular polymer cast design to allow electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) to be performed on the major forearm muscle groups without the need for complete cast removal. It is proposed that if carefully designed EMS protocols are performed several times per week during the late stages of fracture healing, the individual will experience a lesser degree of disuse atrophy and bone demineralization, reducing the post-recovery time necessary to restore normal strength and motor function. Further enhancements to the cast design may include the integration of biofeedback mechanisms via surface electromyography (SEMG).