A former concert pianist has told of her joy at getting what scientists claim are the world's first bionic fingers.

Maria Antonia Iglesias, from Catalonia, Spain, said the motor-powered devices allow her to pick up a glass, hold cutlery and write for the first time since she lost her digits after an illness. The fingers were made by the inventors of the bionic i-Limb hand when they realized more could be done for the 1.2 million people worldwide who have missing digits.

The loss of two fingers can reduce hand function by up to 40%.

Ms. Iglesias, 42, lost hers after developing pneumococcal septic shock in 2003. She is among the first to get Touch Bionics' custom-made devices, called ProDigits, which cost between $57,000 and $73,000.

"I am very pleased to be part of this project, and the benefits my new hand is giving me are like a dream," she said. "Even a simple thing like holding and lifting a glass of water to drink from was impossible before, but with ProDigits I can do it easily."

The fake digits, which are covered in a hi-tech robotic skin, are controlled by "myoelectric sensors," which register signals from any muscles that remain in the hand. Alternatively, they can be activated by a touch pad.

"There has been no solution like this for the partial hand amputee community," Phil Newman, Touch Bionics' marketing director said.

"The ProDigits provide a powered device with a grip and it has returned these people to a level of functionality and independence.

"It is supporting a community that has never had support before."