Altoona, PA – John German is a happy man. Some years ago, he lost his left arm to a nerve disorder. Since then, he has wondered if it was possible to regain his arm through advances in robotics/prosthetics. His prayers have been answered. He has the world's first fully articulating and commercially available bionic hand.
Developed by Touch Bionics, Livingston, Scotland, a leading developer of advanced upper-limb prosthetics (ULP), the i-LIMB Hand, is a prosthetic device with five individually powered digits. This replacement hand looks and acts like a real human hand and represents a generational advance in bionics and patient care.
The Touch Bionics i-LIMB Hand was developed using leading-edge mechanical engineering techniques and is manufactured using high-strength plastics. The result is a next-generation prosthetic device that is lightweight, robust and appealing to both patients and healthcare professionals.
The i-LIMB Hand is controlled by a unique, highly intuitive control system that uses a traditional two-input myoelectric (muscle signal) to open and close the hand’s life-like fingers. Myoelectric controls utilize the electrical signal generated by the muscles in the remaining portion of the patient’s limb. Electrodes that sit on the surface of the skin pick up this signal. Existing users of basic myoelectric prosthetic hands are able to quickly adapt to the system and can master the device’s new functionality within minutes. For new patients, the i-Limb Hand offers a prosthetic solution that has never before been available.
The modular construction of the i-LIMB Hand means that each individually powered finger can be quickly removed by simply removing one screw. This means that a prosthetist can easily swap out fingers that require servicing and patients can return to their everyday lives after a short clinic visit. Traditional devices would have to be returned to the manufacturer, often leaving the patient without a hand for many weeks.
The pricey arm costs $18,000. Phil Newman, the head of sales and marketing for Touch Bionics, says the price is double that of the average prosthetic.
The i-Limb Hand allows German to point an index finger, form a circle, grasp and turn a key and, when he is ready, operate a computer. Since each finger moves independently, German has a more natural grip that allows him to pickup dainty articles.
He says, “I have a whole new life in front of me because of the I-Limb Hand.”
This article has been printed with the permission of the United Spinal Association. It appears in the Association’s March issue of Action Magazine.