Prosthetic Limb Functionality: A Milestone

Over the years, prosthetic limbs have grown less expensive and more advanced, reflecting the marriage between medical science and technology. Some even have features of real limbs, allowing control by the wearer over the device. Unfortunately, many recipients have rejected these devices due to the fact that the prosthetic limb functionality is limited by unreliability. However, a bone-anchored implant developed in Sweden—one that can be fully controlled by thought—may be just over the horizon.

The team first worked on improving current prosthetics that involved electrodes being laid over the skin. This step helped to fine tune existing prosthetics to provide better functionality. Their efforts did not stop here, however. Next, they focused on creating a more permanent implant that would function even better. A titanium implant was used to affix the prosthesis, much like titanium implants are now used in dental work.

The connection allows a two way flow of communication between the brain—a first involving a prosthesis. Not only can the user control the limb with normal mental functions, but they can also actually feel with the device. One man who has been using the prosthesis for over a year says that it is nearly as functional as a real arm. He claims to have done everything from heavy tasks like hooking up his truck trailer, to delicate procedures like handling an egg.

One big advantage of this type of implant is in range of motion, as the new design allows the arm to function more naturally. It is also easier, compared to older prosthetic arms, to put the prosthesis on and take it back off. Connection to the actual bone also allows for greater sensitivity. This is due to a phenomenon called osseoperception, which involves vibrations traveling through the bones.

By the end of the calendar year, researchers are hoping to begin outfitting more people with these marvelously advanced prosthetics. It’s a huge leap in prosthetic limb functionality.