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First electronic bionic hand in UK fitted in Ringwood
2:52pm Wednesday 23rd January 2013 in News
A DISABLED man who lost his hand in a freak accident has become the first in the UK to be fitted with a bionic limb that has electronic fingers and thumb.
Chris Taylor's new hand operates like a normal human hand and he is able to move the five digits using the muscles in his right arm.
The clever invention, that costs £47,000, has built-in electrodes which sense movement in his forearm muscles which then sends signals to the hand.
Chris was fitted with the limb at the renowned Dorset Orthopaedic clinic in Ringwood.
It means he can now hold and grip different-sized objects and perform simple domestic tasks most people take for granted, such as doing up a button or picking up a set of keys.
Chris, a service engineer, is also easily able to carry out complex wiring work for his job with the life-like limb.
The 58-year-old lost his right hand when he fell off a jet-ski in a horrific accident in the sea off Torquay, Devon, in 2009.
He had been gripping a length of rope that was pulling his son on a rubber ring when a large wave struck the craft.
As Chris was thrown into the water, the rope tightened and ripped his hand clean off.
Since then he has experimented with a rudimentary NHS prosthetic hand but then found out about the revolutionary 'Michaelangelo Hand' that was being invented.
Chris was referred to the renowned private clinic Dorset Orthopaedic which is trialling the new device and has now fitted him with one in the first procedure of its kind in the UK.
The limb gets its name from the Italian artist's famous painting of the hands of God and Adam touching.
Chris, a married father of three from Ivybridge, Devon, said: "After my accident I was given an NHS hand which wasn't brilliant.
"The socket for my arm didn't fit very well. It was then that I started looking on the internet and saw the development of the Michelangelo hand.
"It hadn't been released in the UK and they were testing it.
"I kept on using the NHS hand while I waited for my insurance money from the accident to get sorted out and followed the Michelangelo Hand on the internet.
"I was attracted to the new technology in it, the fact it had a silicone socket that would fit my arm better, the overall look of it and that the thumb could be controlled electronically.
"It has been developed in America and Germany but has now been trialled in the UK at Dorset Orthopaedic.
"I am really pleased that I have now been fitted with it. It is going to be a learning curve because I have been used to not having a hand for some time now.
"It will make a huge difference to my life. Now I have got something on the end of my arm that actually works.
"It obviously isn't quite as good as a normal hand but it is much better than what I had.
"I can pick things up and do things that everybody takes for granted.
"It is quite a weird feeling moving it and being able to do something I couldn't for quite a long time."
The Michelangelo Hand is attached to a socket embedded with the electrodes, that detect muscle movement.
The electronic signals are then read by a piece of software which controls the hand and make it open, close, or grip.
The limb is made from a variety of metal, alloys and plastic, and wearers will require sessions with an occupational therapist to refine the movements.
Users are recommended to charge the hand every evening for approximately four hours, and can use it for 20 hours at a time.
It costs 47,125 pounds which includes the silicone socket, a five year warranty, and therapist sessions.
It was developed by Otto Bock, a German company that manufactures prosthetic limbs.
Bob Watts, the managing director of Dorset Orthopaedic, said: "What sets this apart from any other prosthetic hand is it is far more intelligent and it has a motorised thumb.
"With an able-bodied person, if the brain says 'close your hand' it sends a message to the hand without thinking.
"This hand has a built-in software programme that does the same thing, it's just that there is no human hand there.
"But it has sensors that send the message from the muscles in the forearm to the hand.
"As a result the wrist, fingers and thumb can respond in a much more accurate and faster way than any other hand.
"Prosthetic hands have been around for 30 years but this is the only one that has a motorised thumb which can move and grip by itself.
"You have to move the thumb into position with your working hand with the other limbs."