Health Beat: Bionic hand for soldiers

BETHESDA, Md. - Seven years ago, Army Sergeant First Class Ramon Padilla Munguia lost his hand, and almost his life, in Afghanistan.

"Every morning, I thank God that I'm still here," Munguia said.

Now, Munguia is using a bionic hand. He's the second person in the world to test the new prosthetic.

Using this IMES system, Munguia has eight tiny sensors implanted on muscles inside his arm. As he contracts his muscles, the electrodes pick up the signal and transmit it to the prosthesis, which moves accordingly.

"Now, if I want to close the hand, all I got to do is this movement and I do this movement and the hand closes," Munguia explained.

Current motorized hand prostheses use surface electrodes that are placed over the skin and only allow limited motion.

"So, we thought if we could put electrodes underneath the skin and put them into the muscles directly, we'd have a lot better control," said Dr. Paul F. Pasquina, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Munguia can rotate, bend and move his hand and fingers in different directions. He's even learned to play golf with his new prosthetic.

"It's a wonderful game, and it's a beautiful game. This gives me a brand new incentive to do well," Mungia said.

A new hand and a new-found hobby for a man who won't let anything hold him back.

The prosthetic system is controlled by implantable myoelectric sensors, or IMES for short.

Alfred Mann Foundation's researchers at Walter Reed are currently conducting a feasibility study and hope to enroll a third patient soon.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary and an in-depth interview with the doctor

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