[Selective nerve transfers to improve the control of myoelectrical arm prostheses]

Handchir Mikrochir Plast Chir. 2008 Feb;40(1):60-5. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-989415.
[Article in German]


To date, the movement of myoelectrical arm prostheses proceeds via two transcutaneous electrodes that are controlled by two separately innervated muscle groups. The various control levels are chosen by co-contractions of these muscles and the respective level is linearly controlled by the same muscles. A harmonious course of movement as in the corresponding natural pattern of motion is not possible in this way. An appreciable improvement would be given by the control of the individual movement levels by signals that correspond neuronally with the natural pattern of motion. Just recently, prostheses with six control levels have been realised technically. The objective is to separate the major arm nerves, such as the musculocutaneous nerve, radial nerve, median nerve and ulnar nerve, from the proximal arm nerve plexus and to transfer them to the residual nerve branches of muscles near the stem in order to create meaningful neuromuscular units that can serve as impulse sources for myoelectrical prosthesis. As target muscles, above all, one can consider the major/minor pectoral muscles or, respectively, the latissimus muscle. According to the activity of the donor nerves, these muscles would contract and control the prosthesis via transcutaneous electrode. In this way, a harmonious control corresponding intuitively to the natural pattern of movement would be possible without the necessity for the patient to continuously switch between the various control levels. Prerequisites for this are intact proximal muscle groups and a more or less intact arm nerve plexus with the possibility to isolate donor nerves according to the topographic-anatomic situation. For this reason, a preoperative MRI examination, a high resolution sonographic study and balancing NLG and EMG of the residual nerve plexus are necessary. For the preoperative planning phase as well as for the postoperative follow-up, a detailed procedure has been established, in cooperation with the innovation department of the Otto Bock company, to create the most meaningful switch levels, to optimise electrode placement as well as to clarify prosthesis incorporation. Finally, a complex rehabilitation programme is necessary for the patient to achieve an optimal result.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study
  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Amputees / rehabilitation*
  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm Injuries / surgery
  • Artificial Limbs* / standards
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electromyography
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Nerve Transfer / methods*
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome