May 26 - In a world first, doctors in Austria have amputated the arms of two young men and replaced them with bionic prosthetics. The decision to amputate was made after the men had irreversibly lost all movement in their hands. Stuart McDill reports.
Three years ago Patrick Mayrhofer was injured at work - he still bears the scars. But he's now wearing a bionic prosthetic that has given him a new lease of life. He was electrocuted and badly burned and lost all feeling and movement in the limb. (SOUNDBITE)(German) PATRICK MAYRHOFER, PROSTHETIC PATIENT SAYING: "I just had three fingers on the left hand, thumb, forefinger and middle finger and the hand did not work. I could not move it. When I pinched or burned myself I did not feel it and it always felt like it did not belong to my body, like a foreign substance." So, with his full consent, doctors at the Vienna General Hospital took the unusual - and controversial - step of amputating Patrick's arm to fit a prosthetic. Another young man, Milorad Marinkovic, is undergoing the same procedure. The technology gives users control of their prosthetic by simply thinking - allowing even small objects to be manipulated and heavier tasks too. Surgeon Oskar Assmann says he is happy with his patient's progress. (SOUNDBITE)(German) OSKAR ASSMANN, SURGEON SAYING: "For a reconstructive hand surgeon this is a feeling of happiness which you maybe can`t really describe. For someone who knows what it means to pick up a pencil from a surface or to grip a bottle this is a very satisfying feeling." Marinkovic is now awaiting his new bionic hand and will be fitted in the coming months with further operations planned. The hospital says it hopes the procedure will become established practice and help people with paralysis all over the world. Stuart McDill, Reuters