New therapy offers hope for spinal cord injury victims

A recent study by researchers at the University of Louisville, the University of California-Los Angeles and the Pavlov Institute for Physiology indicates that electrical stimulation of the spinal cord may play a key role in helping those who have suffered spinal cord injuries regain the use of their limbs. The research was funded by a variety of organizations, including the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

The study, published in the most recent issue of the journal Brain, involved an examination of the efficacy of epidural electrical stimulation in four individuals who had lost the ability to walk due to spinal cords suffered in motor vehicle accidents. Doctors had initially diagnosed two of the four study participants as permanently paralyzed.

The epidural electrical stimulation treatment used in this study involves the application of carefully measured electrical currents at key points along patients' spines. These locations are determined by pinpointing bundles of nerves that help control the movement of toes, ankles, knees and hips. Researchers discovered that when electrical currents were applied, patients were able to regain the use of muscles in these areas of their legs. Even better, researchers noted that combining the use of this electrical stimulation with specific rehabilitation routines allowed patients to improve the range of control they had on these muscle groups.

In addition to showing improvements in muscle control, the patients in the study also exhibited improved blood pressure, increased muscle mass and even improved emotional health. The patients were even able to independently support their own weight. Notably, the therapy worked even for patients who had suffered their injuries several years ago.

The results of this study are significant because they demonstrate that the development of therapies for those who have suffered severe spinal cord injuries is, indeed, a very real possibility. Researchers plan on continuing their efforts to refine their techniques and are optimistic that they may even be able to develop therapies for those with complete spinal cord injuries. The widespread use of these treatments may still be years away, but it appears that the body's neural pathways are far more durable than scientists currently believe.

Those who have suffered spinal cord injuries in workplace accidents, car accidents and truck accidents should remember that they have rights. An experienced personal injury attorney can learn more about your case and provide you with advice specifically tailored to your situation. Call an attorney today to learn more.