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How technology and access to rehabilitation are helping people following a spinal cord injury

According to the Spinal Injuries Association, there are approximately 50,000 people in the UK living with a spinal cord injury, with around 2,500  sustaining an injury each year.

Spinal cord injuries can have a devastating impact on a person's life, leading to paralysis, loss of sensation, and other serious health complications. It's therefore crucial that medical professionals have access to the latest treatments and technologies to improve the outcomes for patients.

Significant advances

One of the most significant advancements in the last 12 months has been the development of wearable robotic exoskeletons. 

These devices, which are worn on the legs, can help people with spinal cord injuries to stand and walk again, improving their mobility and quality of life. The exoskeletons use sensors and motors to mimic the movement of the legs, and are controlled by a computer worn on the person's back. 

While exoskeletons have been around for a few years, the latest models are more lightweight and user-friendly, making them more accessible to people with spinal cord injuries. 

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma found that a wearable robotic exoskeleton led to improved walking ability and reduced fatigue in people with spinal cord injuries.

Stem cell treatment

Another important advancement in spinal cord injury treatment is the use of stem cells. Stem cells have the potential to regenerate damaged nerve cells in the spinal cord, potentially restoring movement and sensation. While stem cell therapy is still in the experimental stages, there have been promising results in animal studies, and clinical trials are under way in humans. If successful, stem cell therapy could revolutionize the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

Traditional treatments have also improved

In addition to these cutting-edge technologies, there have been improvements in more traditional treatments for spinal cord injuries, such as surgery and rehabilitation. For example, minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques have become more widespread, leading to faster recovery times and reduced risk of complications. Rehabilitation programmes have also become more personalised, with a focus on holistic care and improving overall quality of life.

Of course, all of these advancements come at a cost. While some technologies, such as exoskeletons, are becoming more affordable, others, such as stem cell therapy, are still very expensive and not widely available. 

According to the Spinal Injuries Association, the average lifetime cost of a spinal cord injury can range from £1 million to £5 million, depending on the severity of the injury. These costs can include medical treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care and support.

It's therefore important that early support and funding is secured for those who need these treatments.

The impact of spinal cord injury and why support is vital

As a personal injury lawyer, I have seen first-hand the devastating impact that spinal cord injuries can have on a person's life and why access to specialist rehabilitation, support and therapies is key to trying to help people live as independently as possible

While there's still a long way to go in terms of finding a cure for spinal cord injuries, the advancements made in the last 12 months are going in the right direction. With continued research and development, I'm hopeful that we will see even more progress in the years to come.

In the meantime, if you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, it's crucial to seek the advice of an experienced lawyer. A lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal and medical issues involved in a spinal cord injury case, and help with access to early, specialist rehabilitation. With the right support and resources, those with spinal cord injuries can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives, despite the challenges they face.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people following a spinal injury at our dedicated spinal injuries claims section