Returning Veterans Benefit From Bionic Limb Technology

During the opening press briefing of the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, held February 17-21 in Washington D.C., Dr. Todd Kuiken, presented the newest addition to Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR), a bionic limb technology.


Dr. Kuiken, who is the Director of the Center for Bionic Medicine and Director of Amputee Services at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), named the “#1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America” by U.S. News & World Report since 1991, will be showcasing the advanced mobility and functionality of the new bionic arm with LTC Dr. Martin Baechler, a surgeon from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and patient Glen Lehman, a retired Army sergeant first class.  Lehman received TMR surgery after losing his arm in Iraq.


In 2002, Dr. Kuiken created the TMR procedure for upper-limb amputees with the help of researchers at RIC and other medical facilities worldwide. TMR is a unique surgical procedure as it redirects brain signals that are disconnected during amputation to remaining muscles granting patients the ability to control their prosthetic limbs by simply thinking about the movement they wish to make. Over 50 amputee patients, many being military veterans, have received the world’s first neural-controlled bionic arm.


Dr. Kuiken and his team have further developed the TMR surgery to increase patients’ mobility via bioelectric signal decoding and control systems enhancements. The team has also been successful at restoring skin sensation for the missing limb.


“More than 20 years ago, I came to an understanding that current prostheses really fell short in their ability to enhance function and movement for amputees. There was a significant unmet need to improve the lives of amputees, and I wanted to develop a technology that would help,” said Dr. Kuiken. “While much more progress is needed, we have taken significant steps to advance ability for amputees. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s partnership with Walter Reed Army Medical Center and others in the military health service has been critical to these advancements. To date, several surgeons have been trained to perform TMR surgery for servicemen and women who have lost their arms in combat and over a dozen returning veterans have benefited from the procedure. I am please to be joined by Dr. Baechler and Glen Lehman to showcase a TMR-operated prosthetic arm.”


To increase access to the TMR surgery and bionic arm technology, RIC’s Center for Bionic Medicine and Northwestern University’s Department of Plastic Surgery have created the first education training video for the TMR surgical procedure. Dr. Kuiken and Dr. Gregory Dumanian created the training video to outline the TMR surgical procedure, and define the basic principles for the science behind TMR. The video also provides information about patient selection, surgical techniques, and expected rehabilitation post-surgery results.


Photo thanks to Ryan Somma under creative common license on Flickr.

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