British scientists claim to have created Prodigit, the world’s first bionic hand small enough to be used by a small child.
A full-scale trial at Nottingham City Hospital on young patients who only have a partial hand has paved the way for the technology to become available on the NHS.
It has taken over 20 years for doctors and engineers to overcome the problem of how to make the motors and batteries small enough to be totally self-contained.
This landmark development is said to allow very young children to be fitted with the mechanical hand early enough in their lives so that they can adapt to the device and get the maximum performance out of it.
‘If you don’t get the children very young, and fit them once they are able to crawl, they are not going to get much use out of it,’ said Dr David Gow, who pioneered the research at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Edinburgh during the 1970s and 1980s.
Two motors operate the hand and are contained entirely in the thumb and forefinger. This allows the hand to be fitted to patients who have half a hand.
The unit is operated by signals from the brain. The user sends a signal to move a muscle in the forearm, and electrodes detect this and pass the message on to the motors.
The team now plans to build bigger versions of the hand for use in adult patients. So far, five children, aged between two and 11, have been fitted with the Prodigit hands at Nottingham.