Synergy Prosthetics prides itself in the use of the latest technology in order to achieving positive patient outcomes with every patient we have the pleasure of working with. We believe a progressive approach, attention to detail in prosthetics is critical when it comes too assisting patients and the care they receive.
Prosthetics have Energetically progressed in the last few years, with many patients choosing highly functioning technologically advanced limbs as follows.
Consciously controlled limbs
For the first time, people with arm amputations can experience sensations of touch in a mind-controlled arm prosthesis that they use in everyday life. A study reports on three Swedish patients who have lived, for several years, with this new technology — one of the world’s most integrated interfaces between human and machine.
Electrodes are implanted in muscles and nerves inside the amputation stump, and the e-OPRA system sends signals in both directions between the prosthesis and the brain, just like in a biological arm.
The prosthesis is mind-controlled, via the electrical muscle and nerve signals sent through the arm stump and captured by the electrodes. The signals are passed into the implant, which goes through the skin and connects to the prosthesis. The signals are then interpreted by an embedded control system developed by the researchers. The control system is small enough to fit inside the prosthesis and it processes the signals using sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms, resulting in control signals for the prosthetic hand’s movements.
The touch sensations arise from force sensors in the prosthetic thumb. The signals from the sensors are converted by the control system in the prosthesis into electrical signals which are sent to stimulate a nerve in the arm stump. The nerve leads to the brain, which then perceives the pressure levels against the hand.
The neuromusculoskeletal implant can connect to any commercially available arm prosthesis, allowing them to operate more effectively.
Traditional methods of producing prosthetics require somewhere around a few weeks to even a few months. This happens because the prosthetics need to be custom fit to the individual. Compared to this, 3D printing has reduced production time drastically. This has, in turn, reduced production costs. The production time is so low that a limb, for example, can be made even in one day. Along with this, 3D printers are also available at affordable prices. These printers are user-friendly and bare minimum skills are required to operate them. This is also one of the reasons why prosthetics have become more affordable and accessible to people all over the world.
3D printed prosthetics have revolutionized the prosthetic industry. However, it is very important to choose the right brand which ensures to provide quality products only. There are many brands whose 3D printed prosthetics are available at very low prices.
There is a difference in the role and, consequently, construction of bionic limbs for the upper (including hand) and the lower extremities. The functions of the upper limbs (UL) and the lower limbs (LL) differ, and the role of and need for limb replacement in these cases are different; therefore, careful evaluation of the needs and the remaining capacity of patients must be considered during the construction of a probable bionic limb. The situation in upper limb amputation, hand or forearm, is the most complex, since the hand represents the highest level of evolution with sophisticated and unique functions. Its control of 40 muscles and the involvement of a large surface of the brain cortex, suggests its significant role and importance in human performance. Present commercial prostheses are failing in replicating such control of the actuation or sensing capability. Conversely, the LLs are used for standing, walking, ensuring stability and balance. This is made possible after a transtibial amputation, using the modern below-the-knee prostheses. Such patients can walk, dance, and play sports at near-normal levels. However, those undergoing high transfemoral (thigh-level) amputations do not regain normal gait and balance, and are at risk of falling and overloading the opposite, healthy leg. Several long-term problems, including osteoporosis, arthritis, back pain, and increased metabolic consumption (with possible disastrous outcomes) frequently occur in these patients.
Advantages observed in the use of bionic limbs are: the restoration of sensation, improved reintegration/embodiment of the artificial limb and better controllability. For future applications to LLs, we envision the possibility of achieving better balance and a close to normal gait, which will decrease the number of falls and energy consumption.
Despite several promising aspects offered by innovative bionic solutions, there are still several limitations, which must be faced prior to the widespread use of similar devices. The main limitation of the majority of studies presented in this article is that these were mainly time-limited studies; therefore, long-term research regarding the behavior of electrodes in muscles and nerves must be performed in view of their safety and functionality. In the majority of clinical trials, transcutaneous cables were used. The exit points on the skin for the cables are a matter of concern, both from a mechanical standpoint and in terms of preventing infection. Fully implantable solutions must be developed and tested.
Similar to bionic limbs, nerve detectors control the prosthetic, utilizing the user’s mind to think they are actually moving the limb. The technology behind it operates via spinal motor neurons, instead of just muscle, like a bionic arm. This allows more commands to be detected by the sensors, permitting the prosthetic to move more freely, rather than be limited to a smaller amount of movements.
Commercially-available prosthetic models utilize surface electrodes that are limited by their disconnect between mind and device. As such, alternative strategies of mind–prosthetic interfacing have been explored to purposefully drive the prosthetic limb. This review investigates mind to machine interfacing strategies, with a focus on the biological challenges of long-term harnessing of the user’s cerebral commands to drive actuation/movement in electronic prostheses. It covers the limitations of skin, peripheral nerve and brain interfacing electrodes, and in particular the challenges of minimizing the foreign-body response, as well as a new strategy of grafting muscle onto residual peripheral nerves. In conjunction, this review also investigates the applicability of additive tissue engineering at the nerve-electrode boundary, which has led to pioneering work in neural regeneration and bioelectrode development for applications at the neuroprosthetic interface.
Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng