Spinal cord implant helps paralysed patients walk again

3rd October 2018

Researchers in America have had a breakthrough in the treatment of spinal cord injuries, enabling patients to start taking steps again.

A revolutionary implant in the lower backs of five patients saw all the people it was trialed on regain some level of movement in their legs.

At Fletchers Solicitors we specialise in serious injury, medical negligence and motorcycle accident claims so we work with a lot of customers who have suffered spinal cord injuries.

While the sample size for this study is only small, if the research continues to make positive strides, then this could be life changing for some of the customers we deal with.

The group who took part in the trial at the University of Louisville were paraplegic patients and after the electrode was implanted into their lower back to electrically stimulate their spinal cords, they were all able to take steps.
The approach, known as epidural stimulation, works on the principle that there are still some small signals from the brain that cross the site of the spinal cord injury, even though these are not enough on their own to generate voluntary movement.

The device was originally developed many years ago for pain control and it is thought that when it is turned on, the electrical stimulation makes the spinal cord more alert. None of the people were able to achieve such actions when the stimulator was turned off.

Caroline Morris, senior fee earner in the Serious Injury team at Fletchers Solicitors, said: “It is obviously great news that advances are being made in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. However, we would urge caution as this is still very much at the trial stage and while it will no doubt have made a huge difference to the lives of those people, we don’t know enough about it yet and how widely it will be rolled out.

“If the trials continue, and it can be seen to be a success then it will make a change to people’s lives that is difficult to describe. We deal with customers who have led active lives and then they suffer life changing injuries and in many cases are told that they will never walk again. To hear that there could be hope is incredible and we welcome all further research.”

The study was published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

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