Clinical trial connects kids born with congenital limb loss with 3-D printed bionic arms

Watch what the new clinical trials can bring

Zachary Pamboukas of Seattle was born without a portion of his right arm and is part of the trial involving 20 children. (OHSU)

Four in 10,000 children are born each year with congenital limb loss.

And now a year-long clinical trial between doctors at OHSU and the University of Central Florida is looking to lower costs and improve the function of 3-D printed arms and hands.

“They’re expensive devices and especially to the application to children — they’re growing so rapidly,” said Dr. Albert Chi, OHSU professor of surgery. “Even people with excellent insurance and access to prosthetists and prosthetics, it’s often cost-limiting.”

Nine-year-old Zachary Pamboukas of Seattle was born without a portion of his right arm and is part of the trial involving 20 children.

“There’s such a wonderful psycho-social benefit that’s hard to measure,” Chi said. “That when we bring these limbs into the room, their eyes literally light up. To have this collaboration between the East Coast and the West Coast, it’s a dream come true for all of us.”

Dr. Chi said that Limbitless Solutions, a nonprofit organization based at the University of Central Florida is spearheading the trial, which includes both artists and engineers to develop these bionic limbs.

Limbitless Solutions produces the custom-made bionic arms to match a child’s likes and dislikes. Zachary is partial to the Spider-Man-themed arm.

“When I first wore it to school, some kids asked, ‘What is that? Can we feel it?” he told OHSU. “They wanted to see it and look at it. They thought it was pretty cool.”

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