An Austrian man has voluntarily had his hand amputated so he can be fitted with a bionic limb. The patient, called “Milo”, aged 26, lost the use of his right hand in a motorcycle accident a decade ago.
Unlike older prosthetics, this hand can be moved by free will, open, close, and rotate using the nerve signals from the patient’s brain. While thought-controlled bionic limbs have been seen in experiments, they are new to be used in everyday life.
The patient, a Serbian national who has lived in Austria since childhood, suffered injuries to a leg and shoulder when he skidded off his motorcycle and smashed into a lamppost in 2001 while on holiday in Serbia.
A further operation involving the transplantation of muscle and nerve tissue into his forearm also failed to restore movement to the hand, but it did at least boost the electric signals being delivered from his brain to his forearm, signals that could be used to drive a bionic hand.
Then three years ago, Milo was asked whether he wanted to consider elective amputation.
“The operation will change my life. I live 10 years with this hand and it cannot be (made) better. The only way is to cut this down and I get a new arm,” Milo told BBC News prior to his surgery at Vienna’s General Hospital.
Milo took the decision after using a hybrid hand fitted parallel to his dysfunctional hand with which he could experience controlling a prosthesis.
Such bionic hands, manufactured by the German prosthetics company Otto Bock, can pinch and grasp in response to signals from the brain that are picked up by two sensors placed over the skin above nerves in the forearm. In effect, the patient controls the hand using the same brain signals that would have once powered similar movements in the real hand.
The wrist of the prosthesis can be rotated manually using the patient’s other functioning hand (if the patient has one).
Hopefully this technology will continue its incredible progression, and help even of those who have lost the use of their hands.