Breaking News Bar
updated: 5/3/2013 4:30 PM

Squeeze some fruit? There's an ap for that

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Double amputee Jason Koger, 34, of Owensboro, Ky., demonstrates his i-limb ultra revolution hands on Thursday.

      Double amputee Jason Koger, 34, of Owensboro, Ky., demonstrates his i-limb ultra revolution hands on Thursday.
    Associated Press

  • Koger, a husband and father of three who lost his limbs in an accident, can now activate with an iPhone app 24 different grip patterns for his new hands.

      Koger, a husband and father of three who lost his limbs in an accident, can now activate with an iPhone app 24 different grip patterns for his new hands.
    Associated Press

  • Koger smiles during an interview with the Associated Press, Thursday.

      Koger smiles during an interview with the Associated Press, Thursday.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Double-amputee Jason Koger used to fly hundreds of miles to visit a clinician when he wanted to adjust the grips on his bionic hands.

Now, he's got an app.

Koger came to Philadelphia this week to demonstrate the i-limb ultra revolution, a prosthetic developed by the British firm Touch Bionics. Using a stylus and an iPhone, Koger can choose any of 24 grip patterns that best suit his needs.

It's the latest evolution in equipment for Koger, a 34-year-old married father of three from Owensboro, Ky., who lost his hands in an all-terrain vehicle accident in 2008.

"Five years ago, I couldn't pull my pants up by myself," said Koger. "Today, I go hunting and do some of the things that I probably never imagined I could have done five years ago."

The technology indicates how rapidly the field of prosthetics is changing, benefiting patients from injured military members to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Practitioners say increased government research in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is driving some of the advances.

In Koger's case, he was shocked by a downed power line. He went into a coma and had no idea until he woke up three days later that doctors had amputated both his limbs at mid-forearm.

His wife spent those three days researching prosthetics, Koger said.

Since then, he's used a variety of prostheses, which he considers like tools -- different extensions for different tasks. Electric hooks have allowed him to pursue his passion for hunting. Myoelectric hands, which react to electrical impulses generated by his remaining arm muscles, offer more precise movements.

The previous version of Koger's myoelectric device required programming by a prosthetist, meaning Koger had to fly to Advanced Arm Dynamics in Dallas. The prosthetist would work with Koger to pick a few grip patterns -- such as pinching, pointing or shaking hands -- to program into the i-limb.

Yet sometimes Koger would get home and realize they weren't the ones he needed. Now, the latest i-limb comes with iPhone or iPad app that allows Koger to reprogram his hand with the touch of a stylus. On Thursday, he demonstrated by gripping an orange, a baseball and a can of soda.

The i-limb allows fingers and thumbs move independently to conform around certain objects, said Ryan Spill, a prosthetist for Advanced Arm Dynamics' new office in Philadelphia, who is working with Koger. The thumb is also motorized, not passive, as in previous prostheses.

The Boston Marathon bombings, which wounded more than 260 people including many with serious leg injuries, have shined a light on the advances in prostheses. But experts note that technology for upper extremity bionics, which involve fine motor skills, is much different from what's needed for lower extremities, which focuses on weight distribution and gait.

There have also been huge advances in computerized knees and feet, said Joe Reda, assistant director of orthotic and prosthetic services at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J.

"The changes are happening rather rapidly now and I think it's because of our wars overseas," said Reda. "The government is trying to put more money into research and development."

The i-limb ultra revolution costs about $100,000, though some insurance might cover it. Koger, who received his free in exchange for testing them and providing feedback, met Friday in Philadelphia with other amputees interested in the new technology.

Mark Dowling, 50, of Newark, Del., lost his arm to cancer several months ago. He said he cried while watching Koger demonstrate how the hand worked.

"I'm very touched with his story," Dowling said.

Share

Interested in reusing this article?

Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.

The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.

Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Name * Company Telephone * E-mail *

Message (optional)

Success - Reprint request sent Click to close
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here