June 30, 2015

Cutting edge technology takes us from hand transplants back to prosthetics

Robotic hand

In medicine, a prosthetic hand is an artificial device which replaces a missing hand which may have been amputated following an accident or lost as a result of a disease or congenital disorder. Prosthetic hands have come a long way since the first hand hook. They have been perfected to perform just like the real hand.

Steeper Group, who have created the Bebionic small hand consider the hand the world’s most lifelike, functional and easy to use bionic hand commercially available today. Nicky Ashwell, the recent Bebionic small hand recipient is able to enjoy simple things like being able to carry her purse while holding her boyfriend’s hand as well as enjoying things never possible before like riding a bike and lifting weights. Prior to being fitted with the Bebionic hand, Nicky informed the BBC that she only had a cosmetic hand without movement and so learnt to carry out tasks with one hand. The Bebionic small hand, using Formula 1 and military technology, has 337 mechanical parts and 14 different positions. It promises to transform the lives and abilities of amputees around the world.

How does a bionic hand work?

Hand transplantation is an alternative to opting for a prosthetic or bionic hand but the procedure is not straightforward and not everybody is an appropriate candidate. Candidates have to go through a series of tests and need to stay on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives to ensure their body does not reject the new hand. Hand transplantation involves a complex, lengthy surgical procedure whereby the new hand is attached to the patient’s arm by connecting bones, tendons, arteries, veins, nerves and skin. Hand transplantation does not just involve surgery lasting longer than the average heart transplant, but involves extensive physical therapy and lifelong medication. Many individuals would not feel that hand transplantation is for them. There is a risk of a sense of detachment from the hand and there may be a need for psychological support following the procedure.

The future for amputees?

Ted Varley, Technical Director at Steeper Group informed the BBC that bionic hands are increasingly likely to be the future for amputees. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to become a standard procedure for the NHS to fit a Bebionic small hand in light of the cost but it is certainly a big advancement in technology. It is also not for everyone, designed to suit only women, teenagers and smaller framed men.

Having a missing limb, whether it be as a result of an accident, disease or congenital disorder may not only be challenging physically and psychologically, but involves a lot of decision making about what is the best option for that individual. Every individual’s lifestyle, ability and needs are different and the prosthetics route can very often be a case of trial and error. Technology has advanced with prosthetics now allowing individuals’ lives to be transformed as they regain independence and control.

We have helped many clients who have suffered an amputation, from the loss of a finger to the loss of a leg. With the right experts advising in any amputation claim, it is possible to regain independence and maximise quality of life. The defendant’s insurers are often keen to assist with rehabilitation and fund the provision of prosthesis on a private basis as well as specialist physiotherapy.

With the right prosthesis, clients are often able to return to their preaccident lifestyle and occupation. We refer our clients to expert prosthetists who often produce a prosthesis which is significantly more comfortable than any NHS prosthesis.

Our clients have found that as a result of being provided with a good prosthesis not only has the function of their limb improved but often there is a significant cosmetic improvement in that it is almost impossible to notice that the client is wearing a prosthesis. One client described his new fingers as “life changing”.

We spend time identifying the best expert for each client and instruct the expert to consider the different options available to them, which now includes the Bebionic small prosthetic hand.

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