Three Amputees Regain Hand Function with Bionic Reconstruction

A brachial plexus injury is an injury to the brachial plexus - the network of nerves that sends signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. Brachial plexus injuries can permanently impair hand function, and current surgical reconstruction provides only poor results. A team of researchers, led by Professor Oskar Aszmann of the Medical University of Vienna, say they have restored complex hand function to three patients with brachial plexus injuries in Austria. The 'bionic reconstruction' is a combined technique of selective nerve and muscle transfers, elective amputation, and prosthetic rehabilitation to regain hand function. The treatment occurred in two stages; first, to identify and create useful electromyographic signals for prosthetic control, and second, to amputate the hand and replace it with a mechatronic prosthesis. Before amputation, the patients had a specifically tailored rehabilitation program to enhance electromyographic signals and cognitive control of the prosthesis.