Three Austrians who lost their hands in accidents have become the first to get their injured hands replaced with bionic hands.
They have undergone bionic reconstruction, a technique in which bionic hands are controlled are nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs, The Associated Press reports.
This new technique is developed by Dr. Oskar Aszmann of the Medical University of Vienna and his colleagues. It includes a voluntary amputation, the transplantation of nerves and muscles, and learning to use faint signals from them to command the hand. Previously, people were controlling their bionic hands primarily with manual settings.
“This is the first time we have bionically reconstructed a hand,” Dr. Aszmann said. “If I saw these kinds of patients five to seven years ago, I would have just shrugged my shoulders and said, `there’s nothing I can do for you.'”
Dr. Aszmann and colleagues reported the cases of these three Austrians men in a report published online in the journal Lancet. They volunteered for the process, and decided on amputation only after having the bionic hand strapped onto their injured hand to see how the robotic one might function.
One of them is Milorad Marinkovic, a 30-year-old who whose hand was lost in a motorbike accident more than a 10 years ago. Marinkovic, who is a resident of Vienna, seems to be very satisfied with the bionic hand, which allows him to hold things like a sandwich or bottle of water and play with his three children. Marinkovic says that using his bionic hand is not very different. It works same as his uninjured hand. “I can do almost everything with it. I just don’t have any feeling in it,” he said.
Dr. Simon Kay, who specializes in hand transplants, says that bionic hands have some limits. He added that brain has thousands of ways to send messages to the human hand but that a robotic prosthetic can’t handle such complexity. “The question is always going to be: How do we get the message from the mind to the metal?” he said.
According to Dr. Aszmann, the new technique is estimated to cost around $33,960.
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