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A chance for some amputees to get all DEKA'd out

Amputees such as these wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan may now have the opportunity to be fitted with artificial arms that can perform complex tasks.
Amputees such as these wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan may now have the opportunity to be fitted with artificial arms that can perform complex tasks.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Amputees will now have access to the first prosthetic arm controlled by electrical signals from the person’s own muscles. Known as the DEKA Arm System, the prosethesis is able to “perform multiple, simultaneous powered movements controlled by electrical signals from electromygoram electrodes,” explained Christy Foreman, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health evaluation office. “This innovative arm provides new option for people who have lost their limbs at the shoulder joint, mid-upper arm, or mid-lower arm,and may allow some of them to perform complex tasks that more closely resemble the natural motion of the arm than conventional devices.” In fact recent trials found that approximately 90% of participants were able to perform activities with the DEKA Arm System that they were not able to perform with their current prosthesis.These include using zippers, combing and brushing hair,cooking and feeding one’s self and using locks and keys, etc.

This is achieved thanks to electrodes in the DEKA system which are able to detect electrical activity caused by muscle contractions which are then sent to a computer processor in the protheses that “translates them to specific movements.”

Data reviewed by the FDA also included testing of software and electrical and battery systems, as well as ways to prevent or stop unintended movements of the arm and hand mechanisms, as well as the device’s ability to withstand exposure to common environmental factors such as dust and light rain), and impact testing.

For more information, readers can contact the FDA at 888 Info-FDA. It should be noted, however, that the DEKA Arm System cannot be used on those who have lost their limbs at the elbow or wrist joint.