Second-ever elective amputation replaces hand with bionic reconstruction

In the past some people have been willing to use prosthetic arms, legs, hands, and feet if they’re missing a limb, and technology has made that possible. Things are a bit more complicate if a limb is still there but not working, often due to paralysis. It is possible though to replace such a limb with a bionic prothesis.

According to the BBC, only one patient in the world has ever chosen to have his hand amputated and replaced with a bionic hand, until now. The first patient was a 24-year-old named Patrick from Austria. Professor Oskar Aszmann, a Viennese surgeon, is the man behind the operations. Azmann likes to call the elective amputations “bionic reconstruction.” He thinks this is the best option for patients who have lost the ability to move their hands and have no hope of getting it back through surgery.

Patrick had lost the use of his hand after being electrocuted on the job. He had lost the use of his hand for three years, but once the new hand was fitted, he could move it “a moment later.” Patrick is currently testing out a new and improved hand that offers a larger range of motion, and has six sensors that are fitted over the nerves in the lower part of his arm. The sensors use the same brain signals that would normally power a real hand. The sensors can be read all at once, which allows Patrick to flex his wrist back and forth, and twist his hand around.

His previous bionic arm had just two sensors, and was very limiting, so this is a much improved model. In a video from BBC, we see the hand being demoed by an engineer at Otto Bock, the German prosthetic company that’s working on future prosthetics. The engineer says the next generation of prosthetics is much more complex. As mentioned above, the hand has more movement capabilities with three degrees of freedom but the company is also working on a technology that will allow the patient to feel objects. Vibrations will be transmitted and will trigger the senses one feels when grasping an object (force), moving the hand itself (velocity), and the position of the hand.

Aszmann will be performing the second-ever elective amputation operation on Milo who lost the use of his hand in motorcycle accident 10 years ago. Though these are currently the only two cases of elected amputation, it makes us wonder if this could be a trend for people suffering from an inoperable limb that could be replaced with a working bionic one.

Many people in the medical field are opposed to this procedure, since they think that surgeries could eventually cause the arm or limb to regain feeling. However, patients like Patrick and Milo who have lived year after year with a non-working hand are willing to take the plunge and voluntarily amputate so they can use the bionic hand. As technology improves more and more, these patients may have good reason to feel confident in the future of bionic limbs.

Please click on the link to see amazing video footage of Patrick demonstrating his new bionic hand:http://www.geek.com/articles/news/second-elective-amputation-replaces-hand-with-bionic-reconstruction-20110520/

Read more at BBC News

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