New Tendons Restore Hands

WCTV-TV —Tallahasee, Fla.—February 21, 2011

Maybe you've never heard of transverse myelitis, but those diagnosed will assure you it's devastating. Basically, your body doesn't have the muscles required to move your hands or fingers. Now, after years of medical dead-ends, a new procedure may solve the riddle outright

At just five, Nicole was diagnosed with transverse myelitis -- a rare nervous system disease. She lost control of all but five muscles in her right hand. Most people have 30 muscles.

Doctor Scott Wolfe at Hospital for Special Surgery spent three months on an answer. The unique solution: Matching working, available tendons in her arm to non-working muscles in her palm.

"That gives us the opportunity to take working muscle units from one position in the forearm and reconnect them in a different place and have those same do a different task," said Scott W. Wolfe, M.D., Hospital for Special Surgery.

Surgeons both stabilized Nicole's thumb and then transferred those tendons at the same time. A muscle that used to straighten Nicole's wrist is now used to bend her fingers.

Nicole absorbed three months worth of physical therapy in just three weeks and is hungry for more. Good news for the 1400 people diagnosed with her condition yearly.

Now, Nicole can primp, pour and yes, text. It's simple, yet revolutionary progress.

An in-depth interview with Dr. Wolfe originally appeared on


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