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A big hand for Austria's bionic arm


A big hand for Austria's bionic arm

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In the Austrian capital Vienna, a young orthopaedic patient is getting used to a new bionic arm.

Patrick Mayrhofer lost his hand in an accident at work.

To make his new one function, surgeons transplanted a muscle from his leg into the artificial arm, where it is used to guide the prosthesis.

Patrick is now putting his new hand through its paces. The hand has six sensors fitted over nerves within the lower arm.

He had received severe electrical burns in the accident, and all feeling and movement in his arm had disappeared.

Patrick said: “I just had three digits on the left hand: a thumb, forefinger and middle finger and my hand didn’t work. I couldn’t move it. When I pinched or burned myself I didn’t feel it. And it felt like something that didn’t belong to my body, like something alien.”

He made the tough decision to have his useless hand removed by surgeons and replaced with the bionic substitute.

With several signals being read at the same time in the bionic arm, the patient can twist and flex the wrist back and forth, using the same brain impulses that would have driven similar movement in a real hand. He can now open a bottle and tie his own shoelaces.

Surgeon Oskar Aszmann said: “For a reconstructive hand surgeon this is a great feeling which you can’t really describe. For someone who knows what it means to pick up an ordinary pencil from a surface or grip a bottle, it’s a very satisfying feeling.”

Another young patient, who lost the use of his right hand in a motorcycle accident 10 years ago, is also waiting to get his bionic hand. Doctors in Vienna General Hospital are now receiving requests from around the world for similar procedures.

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