The BION® Microstimulator is being implanted at the University of Southampton:
One of the world’s first ‘bionic’ devices to produce functional hand and arm movement through electrical stimulation is being fitted to the arm of a stroke patient at the University of Southampton on Friday 13 May.
Similar devices have been implanted in patients’ arms or shoulders in the US, Canada and Japan, but this is the first time that the operation has taken place in the UK to achieve a coordinated hand and arm movement.
The fitting of the device is the latest stage in a long-term experimental research study by the University of Southampton in partnership with the Alfred Mann Foundation (AMF), a non-profit medical research organisation in the US. The study is exploring the feasibility of using radio frequency microstimulator (AMF RF microstimulator) electrical stimulation devices to improve motor recovery and re-learning of arm and hand function following stroke.
The research is based on the AMF RF microstimulators that are implanted into a patient’s arm and act like ‘bionic neurons’ mimicking the messages from the brain to hopefully recreate useful function in paralysed or weak arms. The pioneering system is designed to provide electrical stimulation to both control and re-educate weak or paralysed muscles to produce functional arm and hand movements in patients who have suffered damage to the central nervous system following a stroke.
At the end of April, five AMF RF microstimulators were implanted close to the nerves supplying muscles in a female patient’s arm under local anaesthetic at Southampton General Hospital. On 13 May, she will be fitted with a cuff which will send signals to the AMF RF microstimulators and the system will be programmed to produce functional patterns of movement.