After losing the use of his left hand in a motorcycle accident 17 years ago, Marcus Kemeter was a perfect candidate to have the hand amputated and replaced with a bionic one.
The 35-year-old Australian used car dealer was a willing participant when the opportunity arose to replace his non-functioning hand with a state-of-the-art prosthesis. He concedes that his bionic hand can’t do everything the way a functioning human hand can, but that it helps him do much more than he could with his damaged hand.
The bionic prosthesis was made possible by an innovative procedure developed at the Medical University of Vienna. As reported in the Lancet, a U.K. medical journal, the procedure implements reconstructive surgery combined with advanced prosthetics and months of conditioning and rehabilitation. Between 2011 and 2014, researchers performed the revolutionary procedure on three Australian accident victims.
Bionic reconstruction, as the procedure is called, will give patients like Kemeter, who suffer from brachial plexus injuries, a new lease on life. Brachial plexus injuries cause severe damage to the nerves that control motor function in the arms. These nerves originate in the neck and extend outward to control the shoulders, arms, and hands. Car and motorcycle accidents, as well as rugby and football injuries can cause damage to the brachial plexus nerves. Historically, partial function could be restored to the arms with reconstructive surgery, but not to the hands.
This is because the injuries result in an “inner amputation” that permanently separate the hands from neural control, according to Oskar Aszmann, lead author of the Lancet study and a professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery in Vienna. The injury renders the damaged limb useless.
By transplanting muscles and nerves to the damaged arm from a leg, new paths for neurological signals can be created. These signals can be used to power the prosthetic hand.
It will take years to realize the full success of the procedures and results will be dependent on how much patients use their hands. In an accompanying Lancet article, Leeds teaching Hospital hand surgeon Simon Kay and Daniel Wilks of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne also note that, with time, compliance for all prostheses decrease. In addition, motorized prostheses require power, are heavy and are sometimes noisy.
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In preparation for his bionic prosthesis, Kemeter had nerves from his lower leg and muscle from his thigh transplanted to his injured forearm. After healing, Kemeter’s arm was hooked up to a computer where he could practice operating a virtual hand.
After his brain was retrained to use a hand, Kemeter’s prosthesis was connected to his new nerves while his own non-functioning hand was still in place. Once it became apparent the mechatronic arm would be useful to Kemeter, the decision to amputate was easy. After amputation wounds healed, getting the new prosthesis in place took only a few days, and has left Kemeter able to do many things that were impossible before the surgery.
Contact Our Pueblo Personal Injury Attorneys
If you have been seriously injured in an accident, you may need more money than you realize to fully recover. If your injuries were severe, you may even need compensation to help pay for future surgeries, prosthetics, equipment, and treatment. Call Pueblo attorneys at Smith & Smith, today for a FREE CONSULTATION – (719) 544-0062. He can help you fight for your rights to maximum compensation.