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The Krukenberg Procedure

The Krukenberg procedure is the name given to a surgical operation wherein a person who has suffered severe physical trauma to their arms, resulting in amputation below the elbow, has their remaining forearm stump transformed into a sort of pincer. The surgical separation of the radius and ulna bones of the forearm allow the patient to control the opening and closing of this ‘Krukenberg pincer’ through a flexing of the elbow muscles — which provides the amputee some ability with the grasping and picking up of objects, that they otherwise wouldn’t have, had they only a stump. Along with this, while having the Krukenberg procedure performed does not restrict the patient from the use of an artificial prosthesis, which can be fitted over the pincers, some patients who have had the procedure performed come to shun the use of such prosthesis, claiming that due to their ability to experience the sense of touch through their pincers, they find the tasks of grasping and moving objects much easier.

Krukenberg Procedure

The Krukenberg procedure was developed by, or at least initially described by, a German army surgeon by the name of Hermann Krukenberg, in 1917. And, although the Krukenberg procedure is still performed today, it has become quite rare in western countries. This is probably due to the relative availability of high-quality, and much less visually shocking, prosthetic devices in such countries. Inhabitants of western countries who have experienced double arm amputations and who have also suffered the misfortune of blindness, however, are more likely to undergo the Krukenberg procedure, as the intact sense of touch aids such individuals greatly in performing grasping tasks. Whereas, the manipulation of artificial prosthesis for such individuals proves much more difficult.

An interesting paper entitled “The Krukenberg Hand“, authored by one Ronald J. Garst, and originally published by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, can be viewed in PDF format at this link. Another paper titled “Krukenberg Operation: Revisted” and jointly authored by a number of surgeons, also in PDF format, can be found at this link. This second paper concludes:

“Results of Krukenberg reconstructive procedure on a below elbow stump to provide grip, grasp and pinching mechanism with sensation have been found to be so gratifying that the patients disregard the alleged poor appearance and most patients accept the Krukenberg procedure.”

Below is a very interesting video of a truly amazing individual by the name of Bill Wedekind. Wedekind suffered severe injuries during his service in the Vietnam war which left him both totally blind and requiring him to have both of his arms amputated below the elbow. Bill is now a talented pottery artist, as can be seen in this fascinating video:

And, below is a Spanish language video featuring a man who has also had the Krukenberg procedure performed:

Probably the most notable person to ever have the Krukenberg procedure performed was the notable German physicist Burkhard Heim, who received a double arm amputation, along with the Krukenberg procedure, following a tragic accident in the laboratory.

Krukenberg procedure - Burkhard Heim