Doctors are using technology to do something that biology will apparently never be able to achieve.
A Serbian man known as “Milo,” whose hand was disabled in a motorbike accident ten years ago, has elected to have the hand removed and replaced with a bionic prosthesis. The hand will take electrical impulses from Milo’s arm, and convert them into movement, giving him the use of his hand back for the first time in a decade.
Milo’s injury, a “brachial plexus” injury to his left shoulder, left his arm paralyzed. Doctors were able to give Milo use of his arm back by transplanting nerve and muscle tissue from his leg, but they were unable to give him back the use of his hand. The idea of elective amputation was put before Milo three years ago, and doctors gave him a hybrid hand, which attached under his left arm, so he could get used to using the prosthetic. “The operation will change my life,” Milo said. “I live ten years with this hand and it cannot be [made] better. The only way is to cut this down and I get a new arm.”
There has been some opposition to the procedure, but Professor Aszmann, who performed the surgery, felt that amputation and prosthesis was the only really effective option available for Milo. “To biologically reconstruct a hand for him would be a never-ending story and in the end he would still have a non-functional hand,” he said. “It is in the patient’s interest to provide him with a solution he can live with properly and successfully, and so I have no problem with cutting off his hand.”
The prosthetic that Milo will receive must have its wrist manually rotated, but work on more advanced models is underway. The newer models have three times as many sensors as Milo’s hand, and allow for an even greater range of movement.