Otto Bock showcases Europe's first neurally controlled prosthesis

From Vienna comes a sensational new development in medical technology. Otto Bock HealthCare Products GmbH has developed a neurally controlled (thoughtpowered)
arm prosthesis, which it introduced to the public today. The project is based on an interdisciplinary collaboration with the Vienna General Hospital and the city’s Medical University. The first person to use the intelligent arm outside the US is Christian Kandlbauer, a young man from southeast Austria.

For years, Vienna has provided a fertile ground for research and development and cooperation between a variety of institutions. Otto Bock’s Vienna location is the medical technology company’s centre of expertise for complex medical technology systems, and the Vienna General Hospital is a leader in the field of neuromuscular reconstruction. Therefore, the collaboration between these two top institutions and Vienna's Medical University was simply another logical step on the road to developing a "thought-powered" arm prosthesis.

The "thought-powered" prosthesis as a revolutionary development

The new arm prosthesis represents a quantum leap in the world of prosthetic treatment. The intelligent prosthesis can be systematically controlled by the nerves previously in charge of moving the healthy arm. This gives the user seven degrees of freedom, meaning seven active joints, and enables a wide range of new activities.

As a result, the new prosthesis allows users to use more active joints, which can also be controlled simultaneously. No rethinking is required, as was previously the case with conventional prosthetics. The patient makes movements intuitively, and the prosthesis is able to convert these thought commands directly into movement. With the new prosthesis, users are actually moving their "phantom arm," which they can control intuitively.

Before being fitted, a patient must undergo a complex operation in which nerves are relocated.
After this "selected nerve transfer" surgery, the signals that were once responsible for controlling the arm can be used for controlling the new prosthesis. Electrodes installed in the socket of the prosthesis respond to these control signals. When the user sends movement signals, a complex electronic analysis inside the prosthesis converts the signals and recognises the movements the user would like to make.

This is not possible with conventional prostheses. They allow three degrees of freedom:
Open/close hand, rotate hand inwards/outwards, and bend/extend elbow. Furthermore,
movements have to be consciously performed and controlled indirectly in an energy-consuming process. As a result, they are neither fluid nor precise.

Otto Bock's philosophy of "Quality of Life"

With this slogan, Otto Bock has constantly strived to develop innovative products that give people with disabilities more independence, freedom of movement and better overall quality of life. The "thought-powered" arm prosthesis is the latest innovation introduced by the company’s Vienna location. This branch has always pioneered advancements, for example with products such as the C-Leg®, now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, or the DynamicArm. This year,
Otto Bock’s hand system for children was awarded Vienna's prize for cutting-edge innovations.

The Vienna location is also the centre of expertise for international research activities as well the headquarters for Western Europe. Vienna is home to key technological advancements in the field of bionics, neuroprosthetics and mechatronics, and these are areas of crucial importance for future research.

The international orientation of the project offers further proof of Otto Bock's pioneering role in Vienna. Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH is the only institution in Europe to take part in the
"Revolutionizing Prosthetics" programme led by the US organisation DARPA. The aim is to develop arm prostheses with up to 22 degrees of freedom. In addition to Otto Bock, other important organisations such as Johns Hopkins University and Northwestern University are involved in the project. Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH in Vienna is not only the only institution outside the US to take part in the programme; it is also the only member of the project from industry. The systems developed in Vienna are also used in the US. Otto Bock employs 4,000 people worldwide, with a headcount of 350 in Vienna. About one third of the Vienna employees are involved in research and development, and this trend is swiftly rising.

Vienna General Hospital and Vienna Medical University, two partners in the prosthesis project

Collaboration between the Vienna General Hospital and the city's Medical University is a key part of the project. Together with his team, Dr. Mandfred Frey, head of the clinical department of plastic and reconstructive surgery, laid the medical groundwork for neural control of the prosthesis. During the "selective nerve transfer" surgery, remaining nerves are transferred from the residual arm limb to patient’s chest. There are only three surgeons in the world who are capable of performing this complex operation. Thanks to the neurally controlled prosthesis, 20- year-old Christian Kandlbauer from southeast Austria is the first user in Europe to control his movements intuitively.

Vienna: research location of the future

Ground-breaking advancements in medical technology are coming from Austria, and above all Vienna. These achievements have already been recognised and encouraged by key institutions.
To ensure the city’s continued leadership in this field, Vienna’s cutting-edge achievements in research and development have to be transformed into marketable products. Therefore, both the city of Vienna and the Austrian government must continue to promote and fund these activities in the future.

About Otto Bock

Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH is a leader in prosthetics and rehabilitation. In addition to its production and sales teams, the company's research and development division has made Vienna a key location for Otto Bock. About one third of the branch s 350 employees are involved in research and development. Otto Bock s headquarters is located in Duderstadt,
Germany. Otto Bock HealthCare has sales and service branches in 40 countries and employees 4,000 people around the world.

More information:
To find out more about Otto Bock, see the Company Profile.
For more information on the neurally controlled prosthesis, see the Technical Fact Sheet.
To learn more about the operation, see the Medical Fact Sheet.

For questions, contact:
Barbara Bressler Communication Matters
+43/1/503 23 03 DW 31

The sender takes full responsibility for the content of this news item. Content may include forward-looking statements which, at the time they were made, were based on expectations of future events. Readers are cautioned not to rely on these forward-looking statements.

As a life sciences organization based in Vienna, would you like us to promote your news and events? If so, please send your contributions to news(at)