Spinal cord injuries often result in permanent paralysis for many victims. But a new study is showing that delivering electricity to the spine during physical therapy can help paralyzed patients regain movement.
Researchers have conducted a new study applying electrical impulses to four patients with long-term paralysis. The patients gradually regained some movement and further improved as they continued participating in physical therapy with electrical impulses. This is the first indication that individuals who have suffered over two years with paralysis could have hope that they may eventually walk again.
There are different levels of spinal cord injuries depending on the severity and location. Injuries that affect movement in the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are known as “high-level” injuries. “Low-level” injuries affect only the lower extremities such as the trunk, pelvic organs, and legs. Paralysis of all four limbs is known as “quadriplegia” or “tetraplegia” and paralysis of just the lower limbs is known as “paraplegia.” The severity of the injury can be “complete,” meaning all movement and sensation is lost below the level of the injury, or it can be “incomplete” meaning some residual sensation or movement remains.
The first study on the effect of electrical impulses on movement in paralyzed patients was conducted in 2009 on an individual with an incomplete spinal cord injury. He was able to regain movement to his legs with a grid of electrodes implanted in his spinal column. Until recently, researchers were unsure whether the electrical impulses would only work when an individual retained some small amount of sensation or movement. This newest study was conducted in 4 patients with complete motor and sensory paralysis and confirmed that electrical impulses do aid in regaining control of leg movement, even when no prior remaining sensation or movement had existed. The four patients participated in physical therapy with electrode stimulators implanted in their spinal columns and all four were able to voluntarily move their legs.
Additional studies are needed to determine the exact mechanism by which the electrical stimulation combined with physical therapy is helping patients regain movement. Researchers plan to study further whether the results are due to a built-up effect of electrical stimulation of the spine or the training. Scientists are also developing a non-implantable version of the electrode spine stimulator.
Electrical stimulation therapy for paralyzed patients is not yet approved as a standard treatment as additional research is needed into how it works and which patients it can help. But electrical stimulation therapy offers a promising treatment for people living with long-term paralysis.
Cases involving spinal cord injuries are extremely complex and these types of injuries can have life-changing effects. This is why it is so important to find an attorney with experience litigating spinal cord injury cases. The attorneys at Alexander Law Group are highly experienced in brain injury litigation and obtain excellent results. Call 888.777.1776 now for a free case evaluation.