Sensors allow for better prosthetic mobility

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- Nearly two million Americans are living without a limb.

There have been several advances in lower limb prosthetic's in recent years, but upper limb devices haven't changed much.

Now, researchers are studying a bionic hand that could revolutionize the way wounded soldiers move.

Seven years ago Army Sergeant First Class Ramon Padilla Munguia lost his hand, and almost his life, in Afghanistan.

"Every morning I thank God that I'm still here," said Munguia.

Now, Munguia is the second person in the world to test a new prosthetic hand.

Using the Implantable Myoelectric Sensors, or Imes System for short, Munguia had eight tiny sensors implanted on muscles inside his arm.

As he contracts his muscles the electrodes pick up the signal and transmit it to the prosthesis which moves accordingly.

"Now, if I want to close my hand, all I got to do is move my hand in certain ways and it moves,” said Munguia.

Current motorized hand prostheses use surface electrodes that are placed over the skin and only allow limited motion.

"So, we thought if we could put electrodes underneath the skin and put them into the muscles directly, we'd have a lot better control," said Dr. Paul F. Pasquina, of the Uniformed Services University of The Health Sciences.

Alfred Mann Foundation's Researchers at Walter Reed are currently conducting a feasibility study and hope to enroll a third patient soon.

Munguia can rotate, bend and move his hand and fingers in different directions.

He's even learned to play golf with his new prosthetic.

"It's a wonderful game, and it's a beautiful game,” said Munguia. “This gives me a brand new incentive to do well."

A new hand and a new found hobby for a man who won't let anything hold him back.


TOPIC: Bionic Hand for Soldiers
REPORT: MB #3787

BACKGROUND: According to the Amputee Coalition, there are about 2-million people in the United States living without a limb. Close to 185 thousand amputations occur each year. The main causes are diabetes and peripheral arterial disease. Research shows African Americans are up to four times more likely to have an amputation than white Americans. Some amputees may have phantom pain. This is the feeling of pain in the missing limb. If an artificial limb is worn there can be surgical complications and skin problems. Usually physical therapy can help people adjust. (Source:

TREATMENT: Motorized hand prosthetics are being used by some people. These prosthetics use surface electrodes that are placed over the skin, but only allow limited motion. The external myoelectric prosthetic in some cases, has been unreliable and constricting. Doctors have seen a high abandonment rate among users. New limb replantation is also an option. Some techniques have been successful, but incomplete nerve regeneration is a major limiting factor, according to the National Institutes of Health. Usually the patient has a better outcome if they are fit with a functional prosthesis.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: What's being called the "bionic hand" is now being used by some patients. The implantable myoelectric sensor system, or IMES for shot, helps amputees have better control of their prosthetic. Tiny sensors, the size of rice grains, are implanted on the remaining muscles inside the arm. As the muscles contract, electrodes pick up the signal and transmit it to the prosthesis. The prosthesis can rotate and bend. The hand and fingers can also move in different directions. The implantable sensors tap into a wider variety of muscles with stronger signals from the muscle within. For more information on this advanced technology, visit the Alfred Mann Foundation at, the developer of the IMES system, where work on some of the most challenging medical problems have been taking place for over a quarter of a century. Also, for more information on where Dr. Paul F. Pasquina performs his research, visit, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.


Paul F. Pasquina, MD
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Phone: (301) 295-6885

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