Touch Bionics Unveils Bionic Finger

December 9, 2009

The ProDigits is a motor-powered prosthetic system for patients missing fingers that uses control strategies enabled by either myoelectric sensors or force-sensitive resistors.

LIVINGSTON, Scotland /PRNewswire/ -- Touch Bionics, developer of advanced upper-limb bionic technologies, announced the commercial launch of ProDigits, the "world's first powered bionic finger solution for patients with missing fingers." Now partial-hand patients have a dexterous powered solution to support their return to function and independence.

Created by the company responsible for market-leading bionics such as the i-LIMB Hand, the ProDigits solution extends life-changing technology to partial-hand patients, whose finger absence is either due to congenital anomalies or amputation from a traumatic incident or medical condition. The amputee population that can benefit from ProDigits is considerable, estimated at around 52,000 in the EU and 1.2 million worldwide, and until now, these people have had no commercially available powered prosthetic solution open to them.

Not having fingers or a thumb to act in opposition to one another makes simple tasks such as holding a fork or a cup difficult and frustrating. The articulating digit underpins much of ProDigits' technical advantage, and it is this articulation that provides the biggest benefit to the patient. With the ability to bend, touch, pick up, and point, the ProDigits used within an overall prosthesis reflects the function of a natural hand.

Former concert pianist Maria Antònia Iglesias underwent amputation of all extremities following pneumococcal septic shock of unknown origin in July 2003. She was fitted with ProDigits, and the revolutionary prosthesis already provides Maria Antònia with functionality she previously struggled to achieve, such as writing, holding cutlery, and drinking from a glass. "I am very pleased to be part of this project, and the benefits my new hand is giving me are like a dream," says Maria Antònia. "Even a simple thing like holding and lifting a glass of water to drink from was impossible before, but with ProDigits I can do it easily."

In an industrial accident, Michael Bailey lost three of the fingers on his left hand, half of the rest of his hand, and five of the eight bones in his wrist. Despite having never used a myoelectric prosthetic device before, Michael found adapting to ProDigits incredibly easy. "Honestly, I had only put it on for five minutes, and I was getting it to work just fine," he said. "It feels like it belongs there, like it's part of me."

The nature of each partial-hand patient case is unique, and therefore each prosthetic build is also unique. The concept behind ProDigits is "something never before commercially available in the prosthetics industry." Sockets are custom-designed and fabricated by clinicians to suit each individual's specific needs.

"Vocational and social reengagement is very important to a patient's rehabilitation after a traumatic event. Partial hand injuries are, by their nature, challenging aesthetically and functionally," said Stuart Mead, CEO, Touch Bionics. "With ProDigits, our goal is to provide all that we can to reinstate a patient's function and interaction with other people in their chosen lifestyle and career."

Because of the personalized nature of each ProDigits fitting, Touch Bionics is developing a clinical collaborator program in North America that will see the company partner with practitioners to fit patients. Around the world, Touch Bionics has established relationships and distribution channels in over 40 countries to support the roll-out of ProDigits, supported from its Centre of Excellence in Livingston, Scotland.

"Partial hand amputation represents the largest group of arm amputees, and with ProDigits, we finally have a functional state-of-the-art myoelectric prosthesis that we can offer this previously underserved amputee population," said Jack Uellendahl, C.P.O., clinical prosthetics specialist, Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics. "With ProDigits, each finger is capable of being a standalone functional unit, allowing for fitting of many different configurations of hand absence. In addition, the movement of the ProDigit prosthesis is natural in appearance, delivering a more elegant solution to partial hand restoration than previously possible."

There are two control strategies that can be used to power ProDigits: either myoelectric sensors that register muscle signals from the residual finger or palm, or a pressure-sensitive switch input in the form of a force-sensitive resistor (FSR), or touch pad, which relies on the remnant digit or tissue surrounding the metacarpal bone to provide the necessary pressure to activate the finger. As with the i-LIMB Hand, a unique stall feature allows the device to detect when it has closed around an object, also allowing users to point single digits and configure the hand in various grip patterns.

About Touch Bionics
Touch Bionics offers a range of coverings for ProDigits. For some patients, the high-tech clear and black robotic skins offered by the company create a confident and highly functional solution. Others prefer a LIVINGSKIN option. This high-definition silicone solution is used to provide a human-like restoration to the combined limb and prosthesis for a comprehensive prosthetic restoration.

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