More than 1,000 children are born with limb loss every year in the United States.
Most of those cases are due to a simple prenatal accident known as amniotic banding. This occurs very early in a pregnancy when the mother's womb begins to build a support structure for the growing fetus.
In about one out of every 5,000 pregnancies, one of the tiny fibers in that support structure breaks or pulls loose from the uterine wall and wraps around a tiny limb much like a tourniquet. In many cases, the limb ceases to develop beyond the constriction.
Until the advent of "myoelectric" upper extremity prostheses for children as a result of the thalidomide disaster of the 1950s, infants and children were confined to wearing a mechanical prosthesis invented in 1812 and in general use during the Civil War era.
Today, technology exists to let children with a limb loss enjoy a normal life. The crucial factor is achieving a comfortable, secure fit. With prosthetic legs of stronger, lighter and more responsive materials, and hands that grasp and open on command, children can run and play with their friends.
Myoelectric prosthetics contain skin-contact sensors that read the signals sent by the brain to the missing limb. A computer chip in the limb then magnifies the signals to activate the limb to perfor...
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