Spinal cord injuries are usually devastating injuries. Victims often lose the inability to work and enjoy life. In severe cases, victims are partially or completely paralyzed. Many victims require long-term medical and emotional care.
There is some good news in treating spinal cord injuries. Research scientists at the University of Washington have The findings were recently reported (combined with physical therapy) so that some victims regain mobility in their hands and arm. The mobility lasts for several months after the treatment ends. The mobility helps patients eat, dress, groom themselves, and feel better about life.
According to Dr. Fatama Inanici, the lead author of the findings, spinal cord injury patients place a very high priority on regaining hand function.
The spinal cord stimulator/therapy study
The stimulation used by the research teams doesn’t require surgery. Instead, the treatment “involves small patches that stick to a participant’s skin like a Band-Aid.” The patches then transmit electronic pulses.
The study involved six patients with chronic spinal cord injuries. Each of the patients had been injured more than a year and a half prior to their new treatment.
The study used a five-month training program:
- Month one. The researchers examined baseline limb movements.
- Month two. The patients underwent intense physical therapy – three times a week for two-hour sessions.
- Month three. Stimulation was added to the physical therapy. The exercises became harder as the patients improved. For example, patients would be asked to pick up a small bead instead of a larger ping-pong ball.
- Months four and five. The six patients were split into two groups:
- Those patients with less severe injuries were given one month of just training and then one month with training and stimulation, and
- Those patients with more severe injuries were given one month of training and stimulation first and then one month of just training.
Some patients saw improvement with just training/therapy. All six improved when the treatments included stimulation.
The two patients who had no hand movement at the start began moving their hands during the stimulation periods. They could “produce a measurable force between their fingers and thumb.” Some patients improved in other ways too – such as “a more normal heart rate and better regulation of body temperature and bladder function.”
The study followed the patients for another six months. The researchers found that the improvements for the six patients lasted – even though they weren’t getting further stimulation.
The researchers said, “We think these stimulators bring the nerves that make your muscles contract very close to being active. They don’t actually cause the muscle to move, but they get it ready to move.”
The next stage in the research is “the design of an international multi-site clinical trial.”
Some personal injuries heal with time and quality treatments. Other injuries leave the accident victim with a permanent disability. Many victims lose different types of bodily functions. Advanced research is continually being used to help accident victims lead healthier lives
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our Chattanooga spinal cord injury lawyers have been fighting for injury victims for decades. We work with your doctors to fully understand your medical needs, your future medical costs, and the ways in which the injuries affect your daily life. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, call us at 423-756-7923 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. We proudly represent injury clients in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, and in North Georgia and neighboring locations.