Technology with attitude

Patrick, the First Patient to Change His Real Hand to a Bionic Replacement

In 2010 a 24-year-old Austrian named Patrick was the first patient in the world to choose to have his hand amputated, again by Professor Aszmann, and a bionic replacement fitted. He lost the use of his left hand after being electrocuted at work.

He can now open a bottle quickly and tie his own shoelaces.Source: bbc.co.uk

“I can do functions which I did with my normal hand with the prosthetic arm,” he said, recalling his response to first being fitted with a bionic hand. I think it was very cool – I did not do things with my hand for three years and then you put on the new hand and one moment later, you can move it. It’s great.”

Patrick is already testing a new hand, which its makers say will give him much greater movement. The hand has six sensors fitted over nerves within the lower arm, rather than the two on his current prosthesis.

Multiple signals can be read simultaneously, enabling the patient to twist and flex their wrist back and forward, again using the same brain signals that would have powered similar movement in the real hand.

Professor Oskar Aszmann prefers to calls these elective amputations “bionic reconstruction” and has been working closely with Otto Bock, who have a research and production facility in Vienna.

Before the first operation, the professor held a symposium to discuss the procedure, to which senior surgeons and a theologian were invited.

He believes elective amputations are the best option for patients who have lost hand movement and who have no hope of regaining that movement through surgery.

“You see a patient come to you with a tremendous need for hand function and it’s only a thought away to come to the next conclusion,” he said.

“If the patient cannot address his only hand and I can change his anatomy in a way so he can communicate with an artificial hand, then of course I’ll just take away what’s there and provide a technological hand for him.”

But Professor Aszmann has faced opposition in some quarters, with senior colleagues even requesting he cancel this latest operation – requests the professor promptly rejected.

He said the alternative for patients like Milo would be years of pointless surgery.

“Milorad is now 26 years old and he wants to go on with his life. To biologically reconstruct a hand for him would be a never-ending story and in the end he would still have a non-functional hand.

“It is in the patient’s interest to provide him with a solution he can live with properly and successfully, and so I have no problem with cutting off his hand.”

In the event, the amputation itself passed without incident.

Scar tissue from a previous operation was removed and then the hand cut off with a pneumatic saw. Tissue was then taken from the hand and transplanted to the wrist to provide a cushion for the prosthesis.

Speaking from his hospital bed following the surgery, Milo was a little drowsy, but as positive as ever.

“I feel good,” he said, his bandaged arm lying on a cushion besides him.

“I’m happy that it’s over and look forward.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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