A4 THURSDAY. SEPTEMBER 26. 1996 HEALTH T PARALYSIS Implant that helps quadriplegics [ move hands gets FDA approval . ^^— I. . __ ._ U J.! !!._.__ i i r— I.......*.... i..-"i ^. . i J__»i _-, i«i.— AT,,, -%l» _*.J. j.l_. J _ _i C5F THE SALINA JOURNAL Only partially paralyzed patients will be able to use electronic hand By LAURAN NEERGAARD Tile Associated Press ROCKVILLE, Md. — The partially paralyzed may soon get an electronic hand to help restore the ability to write a letter, pour coffee, even to paint. Scientific advisers recommended Wednesday that the Food and Drug Administration approve Freehand, a surgically implanted device that would become — if the FDA agrees — the nation's first neural prosthetic to restore function to a paralyzed limb. Experts emphasized it's not a cure for paralysis. Only certain partially paralyzed patients could use it, not the severely injured like actor Christopher Reeve. And while it does help those who can use it to move their fingers and thumb, such patients still won't be speed-typing or playing the piano. "We mustn't give false hope," said Dr. Michael Keith, an orthopedic surgeon who helped colleague P. Hunter Peckham create the device. But now, "for most of these patients, there's darn little," Keith said. "We're going to give them more motor control so they can ... do more things, without assistance, hesitation and delays." The Associated Press Freehand, a surgically Implanted device, Is displayed on a mannequin at the FDA office In Rockville, Md. Today, such patients get some help from external devices that let them type on computers by blowing into a mouthpiece, or feed themselves with a fork strapped to a hand. An estimated 54,000 Americans have the type of paralysis, caused by spinal cord injury, that would make them eligible for the Freehand, to be sold by NeuroControl Corp. of Cleveland. Such quadriplegics retain some movement of their shoulders and upper arms, but because their hands are paralyzed they still need much assistance. The Freehand system essentially is. an electronic substitute for the brain's nerve impulses, which in people with healthy spinal cords tell the hand to move. A surgeon implants a two-inch device into the chest, threads electrodes under the skin down to the hand and attaches them to hand muscles. Only one hand can be implanted, because the opposite shoulder is needed to control the device. Patients wear under their clothing at one shoulder a small joystick that controls the opposite hand in response to slight jerky movement of the shoulder. The jerking motion sends the electronic signal to the implant to tell the thumb to move toward the fingers in a "pinching" motion. The faster and harder the patient jerks the shoulder, the faster and harder the hand pinches together to grasp a fork or pen. 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