New treatment gives hope to patients with spinal cord injuries

Friday April 18, 2014

Medical breakthroughs often give hope to people suffering from catastrophic injuries and illnesses in the United States, including those in Connecticut. A person suffering paralysis from a spinal cord injury, for instance, might soon be able to take advantage of possible new treatments to regain mobility.

Of the six million Americans suffering from some sort of paralysis, 1.3 million have suffered spinal cord injuries. Recently, four men who had been paralyzed from the chest down for more than two years regained their ability to move their feet and legs at will.

Although none of the men is able to walk yet, medical researchers showed that electronic spinal implants may be able to help many paralyzed people regain some movement, even those whose cases were deemed hopeless and who were not offered rehabilitation. The findings also challenge the major assumptions that spinal cord injury could only be treated by regenerating neurons or replacing those cells with stem cells.

The research results are considered a milestone. The implant provided electrical simulations similar to those produced by physical therapy, which shows that a paralyzed patient who has suffered a spinal cord injury can recover voluntary muscle movement.

One of the men was a baseball player who had been injured in a hit-and-run accident. He received his implant in 2009. Although his improvement received considerable media attention, the research team initially thought that the treatment would only benefit those patients with some sensitivity in their paralyzed limbs. But, after other patients showed signs of improvement, researchers found that better stimulators might ultimately help paralyzed patients learn to walk again.

Spinal cord injuries from accidents caused by negligent parties can be emotionally painful and costly because of medical expenses and lost wages. Fortunately, a victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent party and seek compensation.

Source: Reuters, “Paralyzed patients regain movement after spinal implant: study,” Sharon Begley, April 8, 2014

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