A new generation of myoelectric hands designed with four fingers and a thumb was demonstrated at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Grand Rapids, Mich. The demonstration patient had both hands and feet amputated as the result of battling sepsis.

“This feels more natural,” says Pam Buschle, the recipient of the hands, as she opened and closed the fingers of her left hand during the demonstration.

The devices, which cost $100,000 apiece, are i-limb ultra revolution hands manufactured by Touch Bionics. They are designed to offer the flexibility and dexterity that will allow Buschle to function more independently at home and at her job as a school social worker.

Buschle, a 54-year-old East Grand Rapids woman, had both hands and feet amputated in January during a 7-week bout with sepsis. In months of physical therapy, she has learned to walk independently on prosthetic legs and use claw-shaped prosthetic hands for everyday tasks.

The hands will be useful in her job as a social worker at Kentwood’s Challenger and Brookwood elementary schools, as she does activities with students and writes reports.

She opens and closes the hands by contracting the muscles of her forearms. The hands are designed to allow for independent control of the fingers.

“They move in unison but they can move independently,” prosthetist Katie Johnson said. She demonstrated by having Buschle close her hand around a spray bottle. The index finger curled in farther than the others as it grasped a narrower part of the bottle.

“Each finger will stall out at different spots,” Johnson said.

The hands have automated grips and gestures that can be used for daily tasks, such as extending the index finger for typing or a thumb-and-finger pinch for picking up small objects.

Through a Bluetooth connection, Buschle can use a smartphone to set the hand’s grasp for different functions. The index fingertip is compatible with a touch screen.

“Grip chips” can be placed at various places around the house or workplace, such as at a laptop or in the kitchen, where she will typically use a certain grip. When Buschle places the hands near the chip, they will move to the right position.

The advancement of this over the body-powered hooks is amazing,” Buschle says.

[Source: MLive/The Grand Rapids Press]