July 12th, 2019

Three Charlotte hand surgeons have discovered that people of any age born without a hand already have the functionality needed to control a prosthetic device using only their mind. The breakthrough research, led by Drs. Michael Gart , Bryan Loeffler and Glenn Gaston, hand surgeons at OrthoCarolina in conjunction with Brian Kaluf, a prosthetist from Ability Clinic, studied children and adults born without a hand to see whether surgery would be required to control a myoelectric prosthetic hand. The study concluded that despite missing a limb for the patients’ entire lives, the upper extremities in both children and adults could reliably reproduce unique muscle contraction patterns that correspond to a variety of wrist and hand movements.  This could allow them to use their brains to control a prosthetic hand.

“In layman’s terms, we wanted to find out if the human brain can command a hand that was never there in the first place to do specific tasks, and if that ability varies between childhood and adulthood,” said Dr. Gart, who underwent his fellowship training in hand surgery at OrthoCarolina. “We found that patients of all ages born without a hand can be highly functional with a myoelectric prosthetic hand, and don’t require surgery.”