Kuiken and Walter Reed Unveil Bionic Arm Advances in Washington, DC - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Published on February 17, 2011

Kuiken and Walter Reed Unveil Bionic Arm Advances in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON—Todd Kuiken, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Bionic Medicine and Director of Amputee Services at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), designated the "#1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America" by U.S. News & World Report since 1991, will present the latest in Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR), a bionic limb technology, during the opening press briefing and a subsequent symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC, February 17-21. Dr. Kuiken will be joined by LTC Martin Baechler, MD, a surgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and patient Glen Lehman, a retired sergeant first class in the United States Army who received TMR surgery after he lost his arm in Iraq, to showcase the enhanced mobility and functionality of the bionic arm.

Working with researchers at RIC and institutions around the world, Dr. Kuiken developed the TMR procedure for upper-limb amputees in 2002. TMR is an innovative surgical procedure that reroutes brain signals from nerves severed during amputation to intact muscles, allowing patients to control their prosthetic devices by merely thinking about the action they want to perform. Using this technology, Kuiken and his team developed the world's first neural-controlled bionic arm that has benefited more than 50 amputee patients worldwide to date, with many being military veterans who have lost limbs in combat. Dr. Kuiken and his research team also have evolved the TMR surgery to continually improve patients’ mobility through better bioelectric signal decoding and enhancements to control systems for prosthetic arms.  Additionally, they have been able to restore skin sensation of the missing arm for many patients who undergo the surgery.

“More than 20 years ago, I came to an understanding that current prostheses really fell short in their ability to enhance function and movement for amputees. There was a significant unmet need to improve the lives of amputees, and I wanted to develop a technology that would help,” said Dr. Kuiken. “While much more progress is needed, we have taken significant steps to advance ability for amputees. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s partnership with Walter Reed Army Medical Center and others in the military health service has been critical to these advancements. To date, several surgeons have been trained to perform TMR surgery for servicemen and women who have lost their arms in combat and over a dozen returning veterans have benefited from the procedure. I am pleased to be joined by Dr. Baechler and Glen Lehman to showcase a TMR-operated prosthetic arm.”

From Pioneering Research to Mainstream Medicine

To help provide as many upper-limb amputees with access to the TMR surgery and bionic arm technology as possible, RIC’s Center for Bionic Medicine, in collaboration with the Department of Plastic Surgery at Northwestern University, have launched the first-ever educational training video for the TMR, surgical procedure. The training video is part of RIC’s ongoing efforts to educate healthcare professionals about the procedure and to increase ability for and improve the lives of amputees around the world.

Developed by Dr. Kuiken and Dr. Gregory Dumanian of Northwestern University’s Department of Plastic Surgery, the training video provides an overview of the TMR surgical procedure, basic principles for the science behind TMR, information about patient selection, specifics about surgical technique and insight into results and rehabilitation post-surgery. The 20-minute video is available for viewing or downloading. Additional resources, including research studies, articles, photos and video, are also available at RIC’s web site.

About the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) is the nation’s leading provider of comprehensive physical medicine and rehabilitation care to patients from around the world. Founded in 1953, RIC has been designated the “No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America” by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991. RIC sets the standard of care in the post-acute market through its innovative applied research and discovery programs, particularly in the areas of neuroscience, bionic medicine, musculoskeletal medicine and technology transfer. The AbilityLab — RIC’s new, state-of-the-art research hospital, will open in March 2017. 

Journalists contact: mediarelations@ric.org, 312-238-6016.

All others contact: webmaster@ric.org.