The bionic hand that's helped Carlota get a whole new grip on life

24th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Device is controlled by arm muscles and improves on previous models

24 January 2008

BARCELONA - Thirteen-year-old Carlota had never known what it was like to have a right hand. Born with a birth defect that prevented her right forearm from developing, until recently the teenager had lived with a prosthesis that at best allowed her to clumsily grab and pick up objects. An operation at Barcelona's Sant Joan de Déu Hospital has changed all that.

Carlota has become the first adolescent in Europe to receive a state-of-the-art bionic hand and forearm, which effectively replicates the functioning of the human hand.

"I can type on the computer better now and control the force of my hand," explained Carlota on Tuesday, as she played with a ball in front of reporters.

Developed by the Scottish company Touch Bionics, the hand is capable of moving and bending its fingers in a similar way as a human hand operates, while a covering of synthetic skin improves its appearance. Carlota takes it off at night and fits it every morning.

It works by sensors linked to muscles in her arm. By contracting her muscles, Carlota opens the hand, while relaxing them closes it, allowing her to control how much force she exerts.

"Now I can do things like pick up a yoghurt without crushing it," she says.

The bionic hand, which costs EUR 38,000 and has also been implanted into a 47-year-old man in Valencia, is expected to be received by other amputees and people born with birth defects in Spain. It is designed to last five years, although recipients will have to go to hospital every six months for a check-up.

"Earlier bionic hands only allowed people to open and close their fist like a pincer. This bionic hand allows people to pick up objects they were unable to pick up before without breaking them, such as a cup," explains David Llobera, an orthopaedic specialist at Sant Joan de Déu Hospital.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / ANA PANTALEONI 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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