One of the most significant injuries you can suffer from is a spinal injury. Over time, advances in science have made these injuries easier to recover from, but there are still instances where there is little that will help someone recover.
One of the newest techniques released is called epidural stimulation. Announced by Christopher Reeve's son in 2014 on behalf of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the treatment is carried out by attaching a wired implant to the patient's spinal cord. The device then delivers an electrical signal that helps send information that would normally be transmitted by the brain.
Does epidural stimulation have promise?
Yes, the relatively new technique shows promise. So far, four men who could not move muscles below the neck or chest have been able to move their legs, feet and toes. Some can stand thanks to the medical device.
The treatment notably also assisted with bladder and bowel control, cardiovascular capabilities and sexual function. During the announcement, it was said there would be further trials, with the family later asking the public to help them find 36 new patients for further research. They are still studying patients and their improvements today.
With 6 million or more people living in America with paralysis, this is a significant game-changer and provides hope to millions.
How far has epidural stimulation come today?
Since the 2014 announcement, there have been changes, but there is still a need for further studies. By studying people of diverse backgrounds and of both genders, it is easier to see which tools help, or hurt, recovery. The Food and Drug Administration approved the go-ahead for the "Big Idea," the name given to the research involving 36 new patients.
It's hoped that, if the studies duplicate what's been seen in the past, that people will be able to better use their limbs even after life-altering injuries. There are many complications that can occur because of a spinal injury, like a loss of muscle mass and infection. A compromised cardiovascular system and trouble with bowel and bladder control are issues as well. Secondary conditions that result beyond paralysis itself are sometimes as significant a threat to those with spinal injuries and are something that the science and medical communities want to combat and overcome.
Paralysis has a heavy impact on individuals and their families, but it's hoped that these types of injuries will be treatable in the future.