Arlington, VA

By Spine Surgeon Dr. Victor Hayes, MD of Trinity Spine Center

It has long been thought that those suffering from paralysis would never walk again. However, new research is turning that idea on its head and giving paralysis patients new hope.

The research was conducted by two different groups of researchers. They found that when electrical stimulation was applied to the spinal cord, some paralysis patients were able to walk again.

Electrical stimulation on its own is not enough. Patients that regained walking capabilities underwent extensive physical therapy after the stimulation. So far, three patients have been able to give up their wheelchairs, at least temporarily, and walk.

The news has garnered national interest, and praise from others in the field.

“This research is life-changing for patients” says Dr. Victor Hayes, MD. “To be able to tell a patient that thinks they have lost the use of their legs that there is hope will be a very good day. Everyone will be watching to see how this technology advances in the future to help even more patients.”

While the work is certainly progressive, more studies need to be done before it is commonly applied. Electrical stimulation will also not provide a person with full function right away.

Every patient that was able to walk after the the studies were conducted required a walker to do so. Two patients participating in the research were still not able to walk, indicating it may not be appropriate for everyone.

The physical therapy sessions were so intense one participant sustained a broken hip during them. Only one of the patients that can walk once again has done so outside of the laboratory setting.

Even with the limitations of the technology, doctors, researchers and professors are looking at it as the future of medicine. Instead of simply trying to make things as easy as possible for paralysis patients, Gregoire Courtine, professor at the Center for Neuroprosthetics and Brain Mind Institute, states this method could become the first line of treatment for those that are paralyzed.

Once this new technology is studied further and improvements are made, it could change the lives of thousands of people living with paralysis.

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