Surgeons used a new technique to attach a thought-controlled robot arm directly to an amputee’s stump, giving him a far greater range of motion with the advanced prosthetic limb.
The system, involving an implant inserted into the bone at the end of the residual limb, allows test patient Johnny Matheny to use the arm without the constraining and sometimes uncomfortable harness he previously used when experimenting with the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL).
“It’s all natural now,” Metheny says after his first trial run using the MPL with the new implant. “Nothing is holding me down. Before, I had limited range; I couldn’t reach over my head and behind my back. Now—boom!—that limitation is gone.”
Matheny, whose left arm was amputated in 2008 because of cancer, is a pioneer of advanced arm prosthetics. He was the first patient at the Johns Hopkins Hospital to undergo targeted muscle reinnervation, surgery that reassigns the nerves that once controlled the arm or hand.