Building 'Super' Hands
Reported December 2009
HOUSTON (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- From hand injuries to carpal tunnel syndrome, every year millions of Americans suffer problems that limit their ability to use their hands. Evaluating these problems can be key to choosing the most effective treatment. Now, science has come up with a simple diagnostic tool that could make a dramatic difference for these patients.
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Four-year-old Calder Hodge is a sports fan and an aspiring superhero, thanks to what he calls his "super hands."
"They're special, so I can have super powers," Calder said.
Calder was born with a fifth finger on each hand instead of a thumb. Surgery at Shriners Hospital reconfigured his hands, but that's just the beginning.
"Calder had surgery to turn his extra finger into a thumb, but for me, it's going to be very important to know how he uses it," Gloria Gugola, M.D., an orthopedic hand surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Houston, Texas, told Ivanhoe.
Orthopedic surgeons track his progress with this new device called PRIME -- peg restrained intrinsic muscle evaluator -- designed by bioengineering students at Rice University.
"From a scientific standpoint, it's a simple load cell attached to the muscle, and so when you move your hand, the load cell measures the force that the muscle puts on the load cell," bioengineer Naveen Yadav, of Rice University in Houston, explained.
A loop around Calder's finger records the maximum amount of force generated with each pull or stretch of his thumb, sending that data to a PDA.
Researchers say quantifying a patient's muscle strength can guide treatment decisions and identify problems.
"So not only to track rehabilitative progress, for example for kids like Calder, but for kids in whom we want to pick up on neuromuscular diseases," Dr. Gugola said.
For Calder and many others, it's new technology that could make a winning difference for a stronger future.
There is now a patent pending on the PRIME hand measurement system, which has won several engineering and science prizes. Clinical trials are continuing to evaluate the device and its potential benefits for treating a variety of muscular problems.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Shriners Hospitals for Children
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Santa Monica, CA 90406
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