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Cool Things

Advanced Prosthetics Are Within Reach

New procedures, technology, and virtual rehab help patients control more individual movements

Over 80% of wounded U.S. soldiers returning home from combat have suffered the loss of an extremity. With advanced modular prosthetic limbs and virtual rehab, these veterans could experience full motor control in their arms and hands again.

Unlike traditional prosthetics, MPLs include sensory feedback like temperature, pressure, acceleration, and velocity. They’re more comfortable and provide a wider range of motion, and patients can even adjust them with their cell phones.

To take advantage of the potential of MPLs, patients go through a new type of physical therapy that uses virtual reality. “In many ways I feel like we’re inventing a whole new field of medicine: Virtual Rehab,” says Dr. Albert Chi, a surgeon at Oregon Health & Science University who helped develop MPLs.

Though patients can do basic limb motions comfortably within six months after surgery with traditional therapy, virtual rehab helps patients reach a higher level of control, such as moving each finger individually. As a testament to this training’s success, one of Dr. Chi’s patients is currently taking piano lessons, something the patient never thought he’d be able to do after losing an arm.

Watch an interview with Dr. Chi on HIMSS TV.