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Touch Bionics unveils world’s first bionic finger

Livingston, UK and Hilliard, Ohio: Touch Bionics, developer of advanced upper-limb bionic technologies, today 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 like the i-LIMB Hand, the ProDigits solution extends life-changing technology to partial-hand patients, whose finger absence is due either to congenital anomalies or to amputation from a traumatic incident or medical condition. The amputee population that can benefit from ProDigits is considerable, estimated at around 40,000 in the U.S. 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.

Vince Verges was one of four men aboard a Navy EA-6B when it crashed on the Olympic Peninsula on March 19, 1992. He lost all the fingers on his left hand during the ejection.

Prior to receiving ProDigits, Vince most looked forward to the independence his new prosthesis would provide. Vince values the simplification of everyday living activities offered by ProDigits, such as using a drive thru without having to reach over with his right hand, going to the water cooler at his office and not being forced to juggle the process with one hand, and a far more efficient experience going through a buffet line with two hands available.

In an industrial accident, Michael Bailey lost three of the fingers on his left hand, plus 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 in order 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 employed 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.

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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Technical facts:

The partial-hand amputee population is considerable, estimated at around 40,000 in the U.S. and 1.2 million worldwide. A two-finger amputation will translate into 20%-40% hand impairment, depending on which fingers are affected, and close to 11%-22% whole-person impairment - i.e. overall disability profile, including both physical and psychological metrics. Thumb loss will significantly contribute to the impairment of an individual with digital amputations as the total thumb represents 40% hand impairment. Single ProDigit thumb fittings have demonstrated an excellent return to function. Without a prosthesis, there is the risk of Overuse Syndrome, also referred to as Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI), which is associated with unilateral hand loss and excessive use of the intact hand. There are physical criteria that dictate whether ProDigits are appropriate or not. Candidates must have amputation of one or more fingers at the transmetacarpal level or higher. It is possible to support candidates with a portion of the finger remaining.

Media contacts:

  • Linda Forrest for Touch Bionics
  • inmedia Public Relations Inc.
  • Phone: 613-983-3300
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Danny Sullivan for Touch Bionics
  • inmedia Public Relations Inc.
  • Phone: +44 (0) 141 404 6478
  • Email: [email protected]