A relatively new medical procedure called “transcutaneous stimulation” may soon become a major medial breakthrough in curing completely paralyzed patients. Researchers used the procedure on volunteers and reported that patients partially regained their ability to voluntarily move their limbs.
What’s great about the medical technique is that it doesn’t require surgery and has a gradual effect that allows the body re-adapt to normal conditions of functioning. The research team explained that the new method helped five of their patients to move their legs after a period of several weeks.
Transcutaneous stimulation, however, showed the most impressive results after it as combined with physical therapy and experimental medication. Researchers say that their finding is a huge step in the research designed to allow paralyzed patients regain a normal life.
“These encouraging results provide continued evidence that spinal cord injury may no longer mean a life-long sentence of paralysis and support the need for more research,”
noted Dr. Roderic Pettigrew, lead author of the study in a recent press conference.
The five study participants were paralyzed patients who had had the condition for up to six years. The newly found medical procedure was developed after researchers sifted through data provided by previous research which had revealed that the spines of these patients were still sensitive to electrical stimulation.
One of the past studies that inspired the researchers clearly showed that implanted electrodes into patients’ spine could trigger some voluntary leg movement. Additionally, the electrodes could also stimulate muscles in patients with extremity amputations to easily move their prosthetics.
But the recent study’s authors planned to find a method that was less invasive and didn’t involve the trauma of a surgical procedure. Researchers now hope that their findings may help many more paralyzed patients regain mobility when the problem is solved.
During their research, scientists attached their patients’ legs to a set of braces glued to a ceiling to offset the gravitational effect. Each weekly session lasted up to 45 minutes. During that time, researchers attached electrodes’ on their subjects’ bare skin.
Those electrodes beamed electrical impulses toward the limbs’ nerves and tried to turn them again to life. After four weeks and a lengthy process that implied physical therapy and a treatment with buspirone, the five men were first able to partially move their legs at will under electrical stimulation.
Researchers have high hopes that this therapy may soon help paralyzed patients walk again. But until then, both the procedure and medication it implies need to be improved.
Image Source: Facing Disability (blog)
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