Prosthetics have been in the press lately. I have found two issues particularly interesting; one is a note a caution and the other an important step forward.
The first article nicely presents a reality check towards much of the excitement regarding myoelectric prostheses. While there is good reason to be excited about technology and prosthetics, there are still many challenges to the widespread adoption of myoelectric prosthetics and these devices are not appropriate for all patients. PBS link
The other issue regarding prosthetics
is that, up until now, prosthetics
have remain limited by the simple fact that no matter how well they work, the patient cannot use the device to sense their environment. Because the limb cannot feel, the patient must see for use. There is no sensibility. That is why, for many kids born with limb deficiencies, prosthetics don’t make sense. Kids born with a limb deficiency learn to function from day of life 1 and many will function better without a prosthetic. This important ARTICLE
in the medical literature summarizes this issue.
A recent study from 2014 from Italy challenges this long held problem. Raspopovic, et al wrote about “restoring natural sensory feedback in real- time bidirectional hand prostheses,” in the journal “Science Translational Medicine”.
showed that stimulating the median and ulnar nerve fascicles using electrodes with artificial sensors from prosthesis
allows appropriate sensory information to amputee to help control grasp.
That sensory feedback allows the patient to modulate the grasping force of the prosthesis
(i.e., how hard to grab) without visual or auditory feedback. This PIECE
further explains this important step forward.