This study presents the design and development of an instrumented splint for measuring the biomechanical effects of hand splinting, and for assessing interface loading characteristics for people with arthritis. Sixteen multi-axial soft load-sensing nodes were mounted on the splint-skin interface of a custom 3D printed thumb splint. The splint was used to measure the interface forces between splint and hand in 12 healthy participants in 6 everyday tasks. Forces were compared between a baseline relaxed hand position and during states of active use. These data were used to generate a measure of sensor activity across the splint surface. Through direct comparison with a commercial splint, the 3D printed splint was deemed to provide similar levels of support. Observation of the activity across the 16 sensors showed that active areas of the splint surface varied between tasks but were commonly focused at the base of the thumb. Our findings show promise in the ability to detect the changing forces imparted on the hand by the splint surface, objectively characterising their behaviour. This opens the opportunity for future study into the biomechanical effects of splints on arthritic thumbs to improve this important intervention and improve quality of life.
IEEE Trans Biomed Eng