Entries in Hands (7)


Mystery Behind Prune Hands Explained

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- U.K. researchers might have figured out one of the most enduring questions about human anatomy: Why do we get prune hands when sitting in the tub?

A team at Newcastle University has concluded through experiments and testing that wrinkled fingers make it easier for humans to pick up wet, slippery objects.  The researchers suggest in reports published in Britain’s Royal Society journal Biology Letters that as our distant ancestors searched for food in wet land and streams, the creases evolved.

“Upon continued submersion in water, the glabrous skin on human hands and feet forms wrinkles.  The formation of these wrinkles is known to be an active process, controlled by the autonomic nervous system,” the research’s abstract states.  “Such an active control suggests that these wrinkles may have an important function, but this function has not been clear.”

In their studies, the researchers showed that submerged objects are handled quicker with wrinkled fingers than with unwrinkled fingers, and that wrinkles make no difference when trying to manipulate dry objects.

They believe that the research supports their hypothesis that wrinkles might be an adaptation for handling objects in wet conditions.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Quadruple Amputee Gets Two New Hands on Life

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- It's the simplest thing, the grasp of one hand in another.  But Lindsay Ess will never see it that way, because her hands once belonged to someone else.

Growing up in Texas and Virginia, Ess, 29, was always one of the pretty girls.  She went to college, did some modeling and started building a career in fashion, with an eye on producing fashion shows.

Then, she lost her hands and feet.

When she was 24 years old, Ess had just graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University's well-regarded fashion program when she developed a blockage in her small intestine from Crohn's Disease.  After having surgery to correct the problem, an infection took over and shut down her entire body.  To save her life, doctors put her in a medically-induced coma.  When she came out of the coma a month later, still in a haze, Ess said she knew something was wrong with her hands and feet.

"I would look down and I would see black, almost like a body that had decomposed," she said.

The infection had turned her extremities into dead tissue.  Still sedated, Ess said she didn't realize what that meant at first.

"There was a period of time where they didn't tell me that they had to amputate, but somebody from the staff said, 'Oh honey, you know what they are going to do to your hands, right?'  That's when I knew," she said.

After having her hands and feet amputated, Ess adapted.  She learned how to drink from a cup, brush her teeth and even text on her cellphone with her arms, which were amputated just below the elbow.

Despite her progress, Ess said she faced challenges being independent.  Her mother, Judith Aronson, basically moved back into her daughter's life to provide basic care, including bathing, dressing and feeding.  Having also lost her feet, Ess needed her mother to help put on her prosthetic legs.

Ess said she found that her prosthetic arms were a struggle.

"These prosthetics are s---," she said.  "I can't do anything with them.  I can't do anything behind my head.  They are heavy.  They are made for men.  They are claws, they are not feminine whatsoever."

For the next couple of years, Ess exercised diligently as part of the commitment she made to qualify for a hand transplant, which required her to be in shape.

Ess had to wait for a donor.  Dr. Scott Levin, her orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said it was preferable if Ess' donor hands were female, and had a size and skin color that matched hers.

Once one was found, two separate teams of surgeons, one dedicated to the left hand, the other to the right, worked for nearly 12 hours to perform an operation so cutting-edge that surgeons have only attempted it about 60 times in the past 15 years.

After the surgery, Ess was in a cocoon of bandages.  Levin said the initial signs for recovery were good.

"This is more than we could ever hope for," he said.  "Her blood pressure is good, all the parameters related to how to blood flow in and out of her new arms.  This is, if you will, a picture perfect course so far."

Less than a month after her surgery, Ess was out of the ICU and working on a therapy regime.  The skin color of her new hands and arms wasn't exactly the same as her upper arms.  They still looked like they belonged to someone else.

"The first couple of days I refused to look at them," Ess said.  "It was kind of like one of those scary movie moments.  I'm too scared to look because it's reality [but] I'm so grateful to have them that I just don't really think about it superficially."

Four months after her surgery, in January 2012, Ess' doctors said they continued to be amazed at her recovery.  They said they didn't expect her to have fine motion control for another 12 to 18 months, but her muscles were reacting well.  She could even pick up lightweight objects.

In February, Ess was allowed to go home for the first time since the surgery five months before.  Levin said the prognosis for both hands couldn't be better.  Even so, rejection was still a huge concern.

Tune into a special edition of ABC's Nightline, To Hold Again, Friday at 11:35 p.m. ET to find out what happens to Ess and how she moves forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Woman Regrows Missing Fingers in Phantom Form

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A woman born with eight fingers feels as if she has 10, oddly enough after losing a hand.

The 57-year-old woman, nicknamed "RN" in a new case study, was born with no right thumb or forefinger.  But after a car accident claimed her underdeveloped hand, she felt a five-fingered phantom in its place.

"A phantom is the vivid perceptual experience that a limb that's been amputated is still there," said Dr. Paul McGeoch at the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California at San Diego.  "They don't see it, but they feel it."

The strange and often painful sensation is thought to stem from the loss of sensory input to the brain.

"Even though the limb is gone, its representation in the brain remains," said McGeoch, describing how activity in neighboring brain areas sets off the sensation.  "That cross-activation generates the perception of a normal limb."

But the case of "RN" is curious.  Even though her thumb and forefinger failed to develop in the womb, her phantom had both.

"Her brain developed to represent her body as it was supposed to be: with five fingers instead of three," said McGeoch.  "The presence of her deformed hand was enough to suppress that representation.  But when the hand was removed, its influence on the representation was gone and the five fingers sprang forth.  They had always been waiting in the representation of her brain."

"RN's" phantom also came with "crushing and throbbing" pain, and her newly perceived thumb and index finger felt shorter than the rest.  But she could ease the pain and "elongate" the phantom fingers by using a mirror box, a device designed to trick the mind into seeing the phantom hand.

"Historically, phantom pain has been difficult to treat," said McGeoch, explaining how traditional painkillers tended to fall short.  "But the mirror box has shown to be effective by many trials over the years."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baby's Hands Reattached After Grandma Cut Them Off

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An 8-month-old Chinese baby is recovering after a 12-hour operation to reattach her hands, which were reportedly cut off by her grandmother.

The injured baby was discovered by her mother, who arrived home from work to find the gory scene.

"Only 10 minutes later she dashed down holding her baby, who was covered with blood," a neighbor in the Shandong Province of China told the Daily Mail. "The baby's hands were gone."

The grandmother, who had been caring for the baby, also cut herself in an apparent suicide attempt, the Daily Mail reported.  She is currently in a coma.

The baby and her hands were rushed to a hospital, where a team of surgeons meticulously mended the severed bones, blood vessels, nerves and skin.

"Although prosthetics are pretty good, nothing can replace the human hand as far as function," said Dr. Brian Labow, a plastic surgeon specializing in hand reconstruction at Boston Children's Hospital.  "But time is of the essence, because as soon as a hand is removed, it's not getting any blood supply."

Keeping the hands on ice until they're ready to be replanted can help buy time, Labow said.  But "until you have arteries and veins attached, the hands are essentially starving."

The replant procedure can take as many as six surgeons, three nurses and three anesthesiologists, Labow said. "You can probably double that for two hands," he said.

Once the blood vessels are connected, the surgeons can take their time carefully connecting the nerves under an operating microscope to restore hand function.

"You essentially stitch the two ends together, but it takes a while for the nerve to regenerate," Labow said, describing how the severed nerve slowly grows out to muscles in the hand.  "And a child is absolutely perfect in terms of healing potential."

Unlike hand transplant recipients, hand replant patients do not need to take immunosuppressant drugs because the tissue is their own.  And as long as the surgery is successful, the prognosis is good.

"Often there is some loss of fine motor function," Labow said.  "But if it's a wrist-level injury, and a clean cut, we would expect extremely good hand function."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Who Lost Her Hands and Feet Receives Double Hand Transplant

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A young woman who lost her hands and feet to an infection about four years ago is recuperating after undergoing a double hand transplant.

“The patient is doing extremely well,” said Dr. L. Scott Levin, who led the team of doctors. “She’s progressing very well through rehab and she has gained significant independence with her gestures. She’s able to wipe a tear and scratch her nose. These are huge milestones.”

The woman, described only as being in her late 20s, has asked to remain anonymous while she recovers.

University of Pennsylvania doctors performed the double hand transplant in September, making her one of only 60 people in the world who has received such state-of-the-art transplantation.

“Our main hope with transplants like this one is that the hands will, over time, function better than prostheses,” said Levin, director of the Penn Hand Transplant Program who was aided in the operation by 12 surgeons.  

During the nearly 12-hour surgery, doctors connected the forearm bones with steel plates. Veins and arteries were connected, and muscles and tendons were then stitched together before skin was then closed, ABC News’ Philadelphia affiliate, WPVI-TV, reported.

Matching a patient for a hand transplant can be quite difficult, Levin told ABC News.  The skin type, age, gender and size of the hands and arms must be the correct match in order for doctors to move forward with the procedure. Doctors also must evaluate the will of the patient, family and social support, emotional stability and understanding the immunosuppression that results after transplants.

Transplant patients take immunosuppressants to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new limb or organ. While the new body part is usually worth the post-procedure risks, a new study from the National Cancer Institute found that transplant recipients are at double the risk of getting cancer than the general population.

It was not immediately known whether the patient could also be a candidate for a double foot transplant.

“The first kidney transplant was performed in 1954 and here we are, 57 years later, transplanting hands and arms and faces and legs,” said Levin. “I think we’re on the verge of an entirely new dimension of transplantation. It’s really the frontier of surgical technology.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Do UV Nail Dryers Pose a Skin Cancer Risk?

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After getting a manicure at a nail salon, many people in a rush opt to use an ultraviolet nail dryer -- a shortcut that exposes hands to the same skin-damaging UV rays emitted by the sun and tanning beds.  Although the intensity is much less than that of a tanning bed, some experts say enough exposure over time could increase the risk of skin cancer.

"Ultraviolet exposure is cumulative," said Dr. Darrell Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center.  "Like a meter in a taxicab, it only goes forward.  And the faster you go, the faster the meter goes."

Chronic, low-level UV exposure can cause basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma -- the most common forms of skin cancer often seen in people who spend a lot of time outside.  When spotted early, the cancers are easy to treat, unlike melanoma -- a rare skin cancer caused by acute high-level UV exposure, also known as sunburn.

"You could keep you hands in a UV nail dryer for an hour and not get a sunburn," said Rigel.  "But it's still UV exposure, and you want to minimize that as much as you can."

A 2009 report published in Archives of Dermatology detailed two cases of non-melanoma skin cancer on the hands of women who frequented the nail salon -- a 55-year-old with a 15-year history of twice-monthly appointments and a 48-year-old who went eight times in one year several years before her diagnosis.  Both women had cancer on the backs of their fingers, leading the report authors to suspect UV nail lamps as a possible trigger.

UV nail dryers are most often used to "cure" gel nails, but they're also used to harden some acrylic nails and traditional polishes.  A standard dryer has four nine-watt bulbs emitting a small fraction of the skin damaging UV rays of a 60 200-watt bulb tanning bed.  But for nail salon regulars or people who have UV dryers at home, the exposure can add up.

"…We know that UV light increases your risk of cancer (and wrinkles), and if you're going to the nail salon every two weeks (or weekly), that will add up to significant exposure," Dr. Roshini Raj, assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, wrote in her book, What the Yuck?! The Freaky and Fabulous Truth About Your Body.  "My two cents?  Use them sparingly, or, better yet, let your nails dry on their own.  It may take a bit longer, but it's worth the effort to save your skin."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Most Americans Are Washing Up After Using Public Restrooms

Michael Hevesy/The Image Bank(MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis.) -- Americans are becoming more conscientious when it comes to washing their hands after using a public restroom.  According to the third annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey, 90 percent of Americans said they wash after using a public restroom, up from 87 percent in 2009.  The online survey of 1,053 respondents was commissioned by Bradley Corporation of Menomonee Falls, a manufacturer of bathroom furnishings.

The survey also revealed that 89 percent of parents planned to talk to their kids about the importance of hand washing at school.

Bradley's third annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey also revealed:

-- 64 percent of Americans always wet their hands before adding soap.
-- 13 percent always wash their hands for a specific amount of time.
-- 26 percent use a towel, sleeve or other material to open the restroom door after washing their hands.
-- 11 percent admit they are a germaphobe and have a fear of germs or unsanitary surfaces.
-- Stall door handles, restroom entrance doors and faucet handles are the top three surfaces respondents dislike touching the most in a public restroom.
-- 26 percent prefer to stop at a fast food restaurant for a restroom break when taking a car trip. McDonald's was the fast foot outlet mentioned most frequently. Another 25 percent prefer a state rest area.
-- 91 percent of respondents say an unclean restroom gives them a negative perception of a business.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio