High-Tech Prosthetic Hand Provides More Natural Function for North Carolina Farmer

High-Tech Prosthetic Hand Provides More Natural Function for North Carolina Farmer
PANTEGO, N.C. -- Advanced prosthetic technology and extraordinary customer service have combined to provide a tulip farmer from Pantego, North Carolina, relief on the job and more time with his family. Carlos Vizueth’s left hand was amputated below the elbow as the result of a workplace accident in 2001. He was initially fit with a prosthetic hook that he controlled manually with a harness and pulley system. The prosthesis was heavy, and the harness system was uncomfortable and cumbersome to use. “By the end of the day, he said he would be more fatigued if he wore it than if he did not, so for the past five or six years, he has not used it except on social occasions,” said Mario Valinhas, CP, a certified prosthetist at Level Four Orthotics & Prosthetics in Cary, North Carolina.
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Vizueth switched to Level Four last year in hopes of getting a more advanced prosthetic solution that would meet his personal and vocational needs. Earlier this month, those hopes became a reality when Valinhas and upper-limb prosthetic experts from Ottobock fit Vizueth with the Ottobock Michelangelo myoelectric prosthetic hand.

Based functionally and aesthetically on the human hand, the Michelangelo features seven different hand positions and an incredibly strong grip, which allows users to accomplish more tasks more naturally than they would with a manually controlled device. The prosthesis is controlled with myoelectric sensors built into the prosthetic socket. Those sensors pick up EMG signals generated by Vizueth’s muscles to control the function of the hand and wrist.

“With its complex gripping kinematics, natural, anatomical appearance, and flexible wrist joint, the Michelangelo hand provides the freedom of movement required to complete everyday tasks and overcome new challenges,” said Brad Ruhl, president of U.S. Healthcare and North America Prosthetics at Ottobock.

Knowing that the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Pantego to the Level Four patient care facility in Cary was not realistic for the 38-year-old working father of three school-aged children, Valinhas arranged for Vizueth to be evaluated and fit with the prosthesis at his worksite. 2 / 2

Learning to operate a myoelectrically controlled hand typically takes several days, but Vizueth picked up on it right away. “It was amazing to see him work the computerized prosthetic arm as quickly as he did,” Valinhas said. “Within minutes of his first fitting, he was picking up flowerpots and even taking the hat off his head. The Ottobock software makes it so simple for a patient to use and for a clinician such as myself to program.”

Most importantly, Vizueth is able to use the Michelangelo hand to help operate heavy machinery at the farm. Previously, he had relied solely on his sound side, which had become extremely fatiguing. “The Michelangelo has really helped to relieve his sound side,” Valinhas said. “He can do so much more with this myoelectric prosthesis than he could with a manually operated one.”

Level Four Orthotics & Prosthetics provides a full spectrum of O&P care, including adult prosthetics, pediatric prosthetics, adult orthotics, pediatric orthotics, and cranial remolding. With 23 locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Florida, Texas, and Georgia, Level Four has been dedicated to providing patients with the opportunity to return to their highest level of functionality for more than 60 years.

Ottobock uses innovative technology, superior service, and world-class education to help people with physical mobility challenges. Established in 1919 in Germany, Ottobock opened its doors in the U.S. in 1958 and in Canada in 1978. Currently in its third generation as a privately held company, Ottobock offers products and services to help people maintain or regain their freedom of movement.