Design, control, and sensory feedback of externally powered hand prostheses: A literature review

Aimee Cloutier, James Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


In recent years, there has been a steep rise in the quality of prostheses for patients with upper limb amputations. Researchers have begun to identify methods of making prosthetic hands both functional and cosmetically appealing, in contrast to past designs. Many improvements have occurred because of novel design strategies, such as the use of underactuated mechanisms, which allow for more degrees of freedom (DOF) or help reduce the weight of the prosthesis. The increase in functionality is also due in large part to advancements in control strategies for prosthetic hands. One common control method, using electromyographic (EMG) signals generated by muscle contractions, has allowed for an increase in the DOF of hand designs and a larger number of available grip patterns with little added complexity for the wearer. Another recent improvement in prosthetic hand design instead employs electroneurographic (ENG) signals, requiring an interface directly with the peripheral nervous system (PNS) or the central nervous system (CNS). Despite the recent progress in design and control strategies, however, prosthetic hands are still far more limited than the actual human hand. This review outlines the recent progress in the development of electrode-based prosthetic hands, detailing advancements in the areas of design, sensory feedback, and control through EMG and ENG signals (with a particular focus on interfaces with the PNS). The potential benefits and limitations of both control strategies, in terms of signal classification, invasiveness, and sensory feedback, are discussed. Finally, a brief overview of interfaces with the CNS is provided, and potential future developments for prosthetic hand design are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-181
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Reviews in Biomedical Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Control
  • Design
  • Hand prosthesis
  • Sensory feedback


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