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Improvements in Treating Spinal Cord Injuries Give Hope to Victims

If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury in a car crash or other type of serious accident, you may have been told “There’s nothing we can do,” or “You will never walk again.” Being on the receiving end of either prognosis is devastating. You will most likely need to modify your living space, purchase durable medical equipment, and make modifications to your vehicle. You may be unable to drive and require transportation; you may also need to hire a home health aide. Working with a personal injury lawyer to obtain compensation from the negligent party is one thing you can do to make your life a bit easier, but can you ever think about recovering even a part of your previous life? It turns out that there is now hope where there was once almost none.

A story in the August 8, 2019 issue of Scientific American reported on the success of epidural electrical stimulation trials in spinal cord injury victims. Nearly two dozen people in Europe and the United States have regained movement — and in some cases the ability to walk — after having electrical stimulators implanted in their spines. The treatment appears to have also improved functionality in other areas, including sexual function, blood pressure, temperature regulation, and bladder and bowel control. The treatment is particularly successful in patients who retained some sensation in the lower parts of their bodies following their injuries.

At present, the modest improvements achieved by researchers and their patients do not come easily. First, candidates for the studies undergo intensive long-term physical therapy and rehab to determine whether they have any residual sensory ability in the areas affected by the spinal cord injury. Then, a surgeon implants the stimulator in the spinal cord of qualified patients. Although the device and implantation procedure are FDA-approved for other purposes (primarily pain management), the risk of negative side effects exists. These can include burns, electrical shocks and infections. Another issue is that some of the trials suffered from administrative problems such as poor record-keeping, which made it more difficult to secure funding for additional research. Finally, it is important to note that none of the study subjects has recovered completely.

Despite these problems, researchers continue to study electrical stimulation in spinal cord injury even though the FDA has not approved epidural stimulators for general use in patients paralyzed by these injuries. However, people whose spinal cord has been injured in motor vehicle accidents, falls, assaults and other violent acts, and sports accidents may find some hope with this remarkable development in the treatment of spinal cord damage.

If you suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, you will need significant resources, even if electrical stimulation becomes standard treatment for such injuries. Our experienced Santa Barbara personal injury attorney at Patterson Law can advise you about your legal rights and options and press for the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free initial consultation, call 888-479-4589 or contact us online.