Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery

A novel instrumented shoulder functional test using wearable sensors in patients with brachial plexus injury

  • Milad Nazarahari
    Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering, Edmonton, AB, Canada
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  • Kam Ming Chan
    Department of Medicine, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
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  • Hossein Rouhani
    Reprint requests: Hossein Rouhani, PhD, PEng, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, 10-368 Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering, 9211-116 St NW, Edmonton, AB T6G 1H9, Canada.
    Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering, Edmonton, AB, Canada

    Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, AB, Canada
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Published:November 24, 2020DOI:


      Because nerve injury of muscles around the shoulder can be easily disguised by “trick movements” of the trunk, shoulder dysfunction following brachial plexus injury is difficult to quantify with conventional clinical tools. Thus, to evaluate brachial plexus injury and quantify its biomechanical consequences, we used inertial measurement units, which offer the sensitivity required to measure the trunk’s subtle movements.


      We calculated 6 kinematic scores using inertial measurement units placed on the upper arms and the trunk during 9 functional tasks. We used both statistical and machine learning techniques to compare the bilateral asymmetry of the kinematic scores of 15 affected and 15 able-bodied individuals (controls).


      Asymmetry indexes from several kinematic scores of the upper arm and trunk showed a significant difference (P < .05) between the affected and control groups. A bagged ensemble of decision trees trained with trunk and upper arm kinematic scores correctly classified all controls. All but 2 patients were also correctly classified. Upper arm scores showed correlation coefficients ranging from 0.55-0.76 with conventional clinical scores.


      The proposed wearable technology is a sensitive and reliable tool for objective outcome evaluation of brachial plexus injury and its biomechanical consequences. It may be useful in clinical research and practice, especially in large cohorts with multiple follow-ups.

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