Indiana University

Researchers at IUPUI join eurozone project to find solutions for phantom limb pain

  • Jan. 22, 2014


INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis biomedical engineer and clinical researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine have joined a consortium of 12 clinical, industrial and academic institutions that have begun a four-year, $8.1 million research project funded by the European Union to find new solutions to combat phantom limb pain.

Ken Yoshida, an associate professor in the School of Engineering and Technology, and James Malec, a professor in the IU School of Medicine Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation are the only researchers working on this effort in the U.S. The other researchers are based in Europe.

“I hope this will contribute to the development of an effective treatment for a currently untreatable condition,” Yoshida said. “A treatment would constitute a major impact for those afflicted by phantom limb pain.”

Up to 80 percent of amputees report the sensation that the lost body part is still present. Throbbing, piercing and needles sensations are among the most commonly used descriptions of pain in amputees. 

Yoshida recalled one amputee who had continuous pain while he was awake. That person rated his pain nine on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the most intense pain imaginable.

“This is a lot of pain which the individual chose to endure because he didn’t want to cloud his mind by taking pain medication,” Yoshida said.

The research project will develop and assess a noninvasive sensory feedback solution and an invasive, implanted sensory feedback solution that could provide long-term or permanent solutions to control or alleviate phantom limb pain.   

Yoshida and Malec will lead the clinical research on the instrumentation developed by Yoshida and his European consortium partners for the noninvasive surface application of electrical stimulation sensory feedback, drawing upon his previous work developing an electrode system used to deliver minute electrical impulses.

Yoshida also will be responsible for developing a common method of assessing and delivering various interventions to be tested in this project so the information and volunteer experiences gathered from the various partners can be compared, combined and analysed.


If efficacy is demonstrated, the Europeans are interested in exploring the U.S. medical device market, Yoshida said. Part of his charge, Yoshida said, is “to run a protocol that allows documentation on what we’ve done toward FDA approval. Our biomedical engineering department has strength in that.”


Yoshida is working with Malec and other staff in the IU School of Medicine Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Rehabilitations Hospital of Indiana to test the noninvasive device on a clinical population. The clinical trial will begin next year and be conducted in the Neuroscience Center of Excellence on the Methodist Hospital campus.

Media Contacts

Richard Schneider