Most people with arm amputations have drastically reduced capabilities. Prosthetics are helpful but can seem cumbersome and difficult to control. Now, new research shows that for patients who have undergone surgery to have residual arm nerves reattached prove that it may be possible to learn how to control advanced artificial arms in real time.
Jesse Sullivan is the first person to undergo an experimental surgery called targeted muscle re-innervaton or TMR. Dr. Todd Kuiken, M.D., Ph.D., Of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, says, "We developed a technique to take the arm nerves and move them to different muscles in the residual limb or chest. Now when the patient thinks close hand for example, a little piece of muscle in their biceps or in their chest contracts - we can use that signal to tell them to have their prosthetic hand close."
Jesse's surgery is paving the way for dozens of other people with amputations to benefit from TMR. Dr. Kuiken and his team at the Rehab Institute of Chicago have developed a computer program they hope will even better read these muscle contractions, or "EMG Signals", sent by reattached nerves. Featured this week in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that this new control system allowed the five amputees participating in the TMR study to complete 10 different elbow, wrist and hand motions quickly and consistently with a virtual arm. Three of them were even able to use the control system to control very advanced prototypes with a limited amount of training.