World First Will Restore Movement to Paralysed Woman

By Martin Halfpenny, PA


The world's first "bionic" device to produce co-ordinated hand and arm movement will be fitted in a British hospital today - and will allow the patient to return to playing netball.

Fran Read, 46, from Poole in Dorset, who was left partially paralysed down her left side, will have the operation at Southampton General Hospital.



If successful, she should be able to extend her elbow and wrist and open her hand.

Mrs Read, a hairdresser, had a stroke nine years ago, followed by a second stroke in November 2002.

They have affected her left side, but have not affected her ability to walk and she aims to return to the netball court with the aid of the operation.

The system is designed to provide electrical stimulation to control and re-educate weak or paralysed muscles, so patients who have suffered damage to the central nervous system after a stroke can regain movement.

The process involves microstimulators being implanted into Mrs Read's arm and acting like "bionic neurons", mimicking the messages from the brain.

At the end of April, five microstimulators were implanted close to the nerves supplying muscles in her arm.

Today she will be fitted with a cuff which will send signals to the microstimulators.

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