Bionic limbs pioneered in Edmonton
EDMONTON – Alberta
Health Services’ Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital (GRH) is pioneering a
major advancement in upper-limb amputation surgery and rehabilitation
with the Canadian debut of the Targeted Muscle Reinnervation procedure,
or bionic arm.
The neuro-controlled bionic arm technology, developed at the
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), allows an amputee to move his
or her prosthetic arm as if it were a real limb. It enables patients to
use their prosthetic arm with more natural motion through
Rob Anderson, 31, from Grande Prairie and Larry Hayes-Richards, 62,
(pictured) from Edmonton, are the first two patients in Canada to
undergo this procedure.
“This world-class surgery and prosthetic technology opens a whole new
world of possibilities to patients,” says Dr. Jackie Hebert, Clinical
Director of the Adult Amputee program at the GRH and Assistant
Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta. “The
ultimate goal for any prosthetic is to enhance outcome from limb loss;
to bridge the wide gap between the actual loss of function and
prosthetic replacement. The bionic arm is the future of prosthetics, and
it’s here today.”
To provide the thought-controlled movement, nerves located in the
amputee’s shoulder, which once terminated in the amputated arm, are
re-routed and connected to healthy muscle in the chest and surrounding
muscles through a surgical process called targeted muscle reinnervation.
This procedure allows the re-routed nerves to grow into the appropriate
muscle and direct the signals they once sent to the amputated arm
instead to the prosthetic arm.
When the patient thinks about moving his or her arm, the action is
carried out as voluntarily as it would be in a healthy arm, allowing for
smoother, more controlled movement of the prosthetic device.
The collaboration between Dr. Todd Kuiken at the RIC and Dr. Hebert and
the targeted muscle reinnervation team at the GRH is a unique
“The bionic arm is a revolution in prosthetic technology, and the fact
we’re able to offer it in Alberta is indicative of our expertise in
amputation surgery and rehabilitation,” says Ken Hughes, Chair, Alberta
Health Services Board. “Based on the success of the first two cases at
the Glenrose, we expect to offer this procedure to at least five more
patients this year.”