THE BIG STEP FORWARD – BREAKTHROUGH TREATMENT FOR SCI
SCI TREATMENT AND REHABILITATION SPECIALISTS ARE TAKING NOTE OF THIS NEW RECOVERY
OPTION FOR COMPLETE AND INCOMPLETE SPINAL CORD BREAK INJURIES
The breakthrough treatment for spinal cord injury is centered around the epidural stimulation device. It is not a muscle stimulator or pain management modality. The device is surgically connected to the nerve systems.
Once implanted, the patient learns how to control the device and the resulting limb movements.
WHAT IS EPIDURAL STIMULATION?
Epidural stimulation applies a continuous electrical current to specific locations on the posterior structures of the lumbar spinal cord. The surgically implanted device sits over the spinal cord protective coating, where it is able to stimulate locomotor-like activity. Epidural stimulation can be offered to patients with both incomplete and complete injuries.
The Central Pattern Generator (CPG) is a control centre inside the spinal cord that interprets sensory information. Epidural stimulation activates the spinal cord nerve circuitry with impulses that would ordinarily originate in the brain.
The device activates the para-sympathetic nervous system, which is not the original route via which brain connects with the limbs, so even if the spinal cord is fully injured, there is still an alternative route to connect to the lower parts of the body. The signal that is conducted through this para sympathetic system is low strength, so it needs enhancement and extra power from the device.
In non-medical language, a stimulator is implanted and wired
up to the spinal cord. The stimulator is controlled by a remote
control. Whilst on, the stimulator commands can actually allow
voluntary movement. As such, the electrical signals are
“reactivating” spinal cord nerve cells.
Over an extended course of 50 or more physiotherapy-type treatment sessions, the patient and their brain, muscles and nerves ‘learn’ how to consistently create voluntary movements whilst the device is activated.
Although the device can be used indefinitely and the battery lasts nine years, the patient’s brain can be trained to communicate through different routes, so the patient might eventually be able to control some movements even with the device switched off.
IMPROVEMENTS SEEN IN PATIENTS AFTER IMPLANTATION AND COMPLETING THE FULL TREATMENT PROTOCOL:
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Provided the stimulator is activated, hips, legs, knees, ankles and toes can be moved voluntarily
Provided the stimulator is activated, ability to bear own weight with no support
Muscle mass growth
Blood pressure stabilised
Fatigue is lessened
Over a period of time, stimulation levels are reduced
Bowel, bladder and reproductive organs functions are improved
Body temperature regulation is improved