New Therapy Could Benefit People With Spine Injuries

Treatment Helps Four People Move Previously Paralysed Muscles

08.04.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Researchers believe a new therapy could provide long-term benefits for people who have sustained a serious spinal cord injury.

Studies partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation have shown that electrical stimulation of the spinal cord can help patients to move previously paralysed muscles.

Four men who had been paraplegic for more than two years were capable of flexing their toes, ankles and knees while the spinal stimulator was in action. The researchers were surprised that two of the men who were completely paralysed were able to control movements in their lower legs.

The findings have been published in the April edition of the Brain Journal and Roderic Pettigrew, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the NIH, thinks it is an important breakthrough.

"Now that spinal stimulation has been successful in four out of four patients, there is evidence to suggest that a large cohort of individuals, previously with little realistic hope of any meaningful recovery from spinal cord injury, may benefit from this intervention," he commented.

Tests conducted at the University of Louisville's Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center have also provided supporting evidence that findings from three years ago that relate to patients regaining voluntary movement in their muscles were not an anomaly.

If the technology is combined with intensive rehabilitation, researchers think there is a chance that people could possibly mount a recovery years after they have been involved in a serious accident that has limited their movement.

According to UK-based charity Spinal Research, around 1,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury in Britain and Ireland every year, so these studies have the potential to help a huge number of individuals.

Approximately 80 per cent of UK and Ireland residents currently living with a spinal injury are male and 50,000 people are paralysed.

If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal injury as a result of an accident that wasn't your fault, our serious injury solicitors could help you to claim compensation. Read our Spinal Injury Compensation page for more information.

Expert Opinion
This latest technology will be exciting for people suffering with paralysed muscles, although it must be remembered that it is still early stages in terms of the research and the sample size is very small.

"It highlights the importance of research into spine and brain injuries and even if this technology only offers a small improvement on the movement of previously paralysed muscles, it could be a major breakthrough. Any research that is trying to help people with serious injuries is to be welcomed as it offers some hope that their situation may be improved.”
Neil Whiteley, Partner