A spinal cord injury (SCI) can be devastating for victims who may need lifelong care.
However, researchers in Switzerland have produced an implant for the spine that enables a paralyzed patient to walk again.
The job of the spinal cord is to transmit messages from the brain to other parts of the body.
A spinal cord injury arises from a sudden blow to the spine and vehicle accidents are among the top causes. There are two kinds of SCI. In a complete spinal cord injury, the victim loses all feeling below the injury site. However, a victim with an incomplete SCI will still have some feeling. Paralysis could affect just the legs or both legs and both arms.
Researchers at a Swiss hospital have invented an electrical implant capable of allowing movement in paralyzed limbs. The research details appear in Nature Medicine, but basically, a surgeon inserts the implant into the spine and attaches electrodes to nerve fibers. At the time the researchers informed the public about the device, nine patients with paralysis in the legs had received the implant and all were able to walk again. At this stage of discovery, walking is only for practice. However, following further research and testing, researchers believe the device will help many regain a better quality of life.
Although there is no cure at this time for SCI, the success of the newly introduced implant offers hope. Currently, patients with SCI rely on prostheses and medication along with an ongoing rehabilitation program to help improve nerve function. The medical costs are enormous. However, an advocate can negotiate a full and fair settlement on behalf of the patient that would include coverage for current as well as future medical expenses.