Damaged nerves can lead to muscles not working correctly, leading to loss of control of hands, feet, and other parts of the body. Specifically, people with high median ulnar palsy lose the ability to use their hands, but a procedure that reattaches finger tendons to a properly functional muscle can help return some of the lost ability. Nevertheless, the results are still limited and patients have to exert a lot of force, the fingers end up moving together, and tendons are often stretched to the limit. A new device developed at Oregon State University may help resolve some of these issues, giving patients more power to their hands and resulting in a more natural grasping motion.
The unpowered pulley implant has been tested on cadavers and compared to traditional median-ulnar palsy surgery. The new technique showed a 45 percent reduction in the force needed to make a fist and a 52 percent reduction in slippage when holding onto different objects.
The researchers behind the pulley system believe the same approach can be used to assist other limbs and joints, but first the technique needs to be tested in clinical trials to see how it works in living patients.