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Patrick and Milorad, the first two people in the world with bionic hands for functionless hands

(Vienna, May 2011) The University Department for Surgery of the MedUni Vienna is consolidating its worldwide leading position in bionic reconstruction. At the end of April another patient received a bionic hand for his functionless hand, and thereby become the second in the world following the successful first operation in the previous year. Nine months after his surgery the first patient is impressively showing how much his quality of life has improved through the benefits to his everyday life as a result of the surgical union of biology and technology. The MedUni Vienna with its bionic hands has the first international concept which gives new hope to people who have functionless hands as the result of accidents.

An occupational accident in a cement works and a serious car accident injured the hands of both Patrick and Milorad so severely that they lost any function in them. Patrick‘s right hand could be extensively reconstructed after the accident, but the left hand was left without nerves and muscles and with only three fingers, which were also functionless. Conventional biological reconstruction, such as a transplant, was not likely to be possible. Last year Patrick decided to have his functionless left hand amputated and replaced by a so-called bionic hand.

A new hand which functions again
As a recently performed examination shows, the young man has now regained a large part of his previous functions with his new hand. The doctor treating the patient, Oskar Aszmann from the Department for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the University Department for Surgery at the MedUni Vienna explains the extent of his patient’s advances, “I first met Patrick after his accident four years ago. When you see him today and observe how well he is coping with his new bionic hand, you cannot help shedding a few tears of joy.“

Further possibilities in reconstructive surgery
At the end of April the Department for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of the MedUni Vienna was able to provide their patient Milorad with a bionic hand and in doing so he became the world’s second patient. After his serious car accident ten years ago his shoulder and elbow function could be recovered through surgery. “However with hands, in almost every similar case, conventional surgery cannot restore functional ability. As was also the case here”, Aszmann summarises the medical prognosis. Aszmann then expands, “The great thing about the new technology is that bionic hands and limbs now open up a broad field of new possibilities where surgical measures alone had previously been limited.“

A new mobile hand in several stages
In order to help Milorad with a new, functioning hand, a muscle was first taken from his leg and transplanted into his arm. This muscle can be controlled voluntarily by the patient and develops enough strength to emit sufficiently strong, so-called myosignals (muscle impulses). These serve as an electrical impulse for the electrodes of the artificial, mechatronic hand. The servomotors found in the hand are controlled with this data. The result is a voluntarily controllable and functional hand.

In the beginning there was a dream
The upper extremities, i.e. the arms and hands, are the most frequently injured body parts by some way. This alone indicates how important these limbs are in every aspect of a person’s everyday life. The loss of a hand, or the loss of its function, in particular, dramatically limits a person in terms of their actions. Aszmann explains, “For many years we have dreamed of reconstructing a lost hand through biological and technological means, and this has been the focus of our work. Today at the Medical University of Vienna we possess a team of proven experts which has successfully specialised in the treatment of these patients with severe physical limitations. With the artificial hands which can be controlled voluntarily there is now a high-quality replacement for the individual body part.“

Bionic reconstruction. Outstanding surgical achievements for optimal function of intelligent high-tech prostheses
With the technology of bionic reconstruction, a patient’s anatomy can be surgically changed so that the use of highly complex mechatronic devices provides the best possible substitute for the lost function of limbs. A variety of surgical measures helps the patient to recover reliable function of their lost limbs through bionic means.

Depending on the individual details of a particular case, bionic reconstruction can consist of one or more surgical measures. A significant part of bionic reconstruction is the re-attachment of nerves. Intuitive control of the new, bionic body part is achieved through this (targeted sensory and motor function nerve transfer). Complex neuromuscular reconstructions support the best possible control of the prosthesis, in which new or additional myosignals are provided. Procedures in individual bone sections help to stably attach the prosthesis to the body. Ultimately, the amputation of existent, however no longer functional limbs or limb sections serves to create sufficient space for the new bionic body part.

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