Prosthesis Powered by Thought

What if you could send messages to a prosthesis the same way you communicate with the rest of your body?

Thanks to Bluetooth technology an amputee in the Netherlands can. In April of this year, Jan Baggerman received an innovative new prosthesis that he is learning to control with his thoughts.

Science Daily reported that Baggerman became the first of only a few people around the globe to get fitted with this incredible prosthesis at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre.

Those of us who are of a certain age may remember the popular 1970s TV show, The Six Million Dollar Man (if you don’t know it, Steve Austin (Lee Majors) was an astronaut who received cyber enhancements and battled bad guys). We’re not sure how much this new prosthesis prototype costs, but the technology is sure bringing the sci-fi of the past into the present.

Baggerman, who lost his arm in a vehicle accident back in 2010, took a series of surgeries over several years to prepare for his new limb.

In 2013, he had a metal rod placed into his residual limb. A year later, a connecting rod was put in place. In 2016, a surgeon carefully worked on the nerves in Baggerman’s upper arm.

Fast forward to the spring of this year and the medical team in the Netherlands were ready to click on the robotic arm – no more need for a prosthesis socket. It fits right onto the metal in the patient’s arm, which is accessed through an opening in the skin.

What’s fascinating is that this approach has been successful for lower extremity prostheses, but this is the first time it has been used for an upper extremity. Now, with the guidance of a rehabilitation team, Baggerman is learning to work and maneuver his new prosthetic arm with his thoughts. As his nerves relay instructions to his muscles to contract or relax, the robotic arm’s computer is controlled with Bluetooth technology.

While this cutting-edge prosthesis is not widely available, just knowing it is being tested gives us a peek at what may be available to more patients in the future.

Want to see the latest in prosthetic technology that is available right now? Teter Orthotics & Prosthetics has been offering expert prosthetic services in Michigan since 1955. You can visit us in more than 20 locations including Traverse City, Cadillac, Petoskey, and Marquette.

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