The world was dazzled recently when three male Austrian amputees received bionic hands. An oft shared video on social media showed they could do anything a real hand could. Their hands are controlled by their mind. For the first time in medical history, no outside control system is needed. These men could even feel what they touched. How is this even possible? Five years ago it wasn’t. Today, nerve grafting allows for this medical breakthrough to occur, along with a host of other technology and medical techniques.
These three men were the first to receive such bionic hand surgery. They had lost their hands in climbing and motor vehicle accidents. One particular video put out by the medical journal The Lancet shows the sophistication of their capabilities. They were able to pick up foam shapes and place them exactly over spots on a board with the same shape (e.g., a cylinder on top of a circle). Researchers say the techniques used could have applications in other fields of medicine as well.
For each of the three men, the brachial plexus, a jumble of nerves in the hand that lead back to the spine, were damaged. Nerves were transplanted from the legs and were grafted into place, then attached to sensors to allow these men control over their bionic hands directly from their own brains. Investigators say in the future robotic surgery can apply these techniques.
One place nerve grafting could have a bright future is for prostate cancer patients. A radical prostatectomy, where the prostate is removed from the body, often damages the nerves which cause an erection, leading to erectile dysfunction (ED). Even with robotic nerve-saving surgery, the chances of damaging these nerves remain high. Radiation therapy to battle prostate cancer can also damage these nerves. Sometimes diabetes can cause damage to these nerves as well, inhibiting or completely blocking an erection’s formation. But nerve grafting in the near future may be able to restore erectile functioning to such patients.
If you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED) as a result of nerve damage or due to an alternative health issue, contact a doctor right away to learn about available treatment options.