A new surgical technique improves amputees' control of prosthetic arms. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers describe work on targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR), a technique that transfers residual nerves to alternative muscles. During the surgery, doctors transfer the nerves that would have led to the missing limb to the wall of the chest or to areas in the upper arm above the injury, essentially re-wiring the nerves and muscles.
Electrodes sit on the skin over the muscles and connect to a myoelectic prosthetic arm, so when the patient thinks to move his or her arm, the nerves send the signals to that reinnervated muscle area, the electrodes pick up the muscle signals and tell the computer in the prosthetic arm what to do. The work gives some patients more finely-controlled motor function in their prosthetic limbs.
Produced by Christopher Intagliata, Associate Senior Producer