Doctors at Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona recently performed a first ever surgery that could set a precedent for similar procedures around the world.
Doctors implanted a new device known as a scaffolding into the spinal cord of a 25-year-old man who suffered a thoracic spinal injury in a motorcycle accident, in the hope that it will act as a bridge across the damaged part of the spinal cord in an attempt to heal it.
Associate Solicitor who himself was spinally injured as a teenager, said it was the first time this kind of procedure had been performed on a human being.
By implanting a synthetic bio material scaffold into the patient’s spinal cord to act as a form of bandage while the spinal cord heals, it is hoped that at some point the feeling in his legs will return and he will regain the use of his legs.
As this kind of surgery has never been done before however, there is obviously no guarantee the procedure will end up successful.
Although any development like this is extremely encouraging and we should of course aim for such operations to become the new standard in treating spinal cord injuries in the future, it is vital that spinal cord injured people are not given false hope that some kind of miracle procedure is imminent.
In most cases where someone suffers an injury to their spinal cord in a road accident or fall, the subsequent care and rehabilitation costs they then require form the largest part of any personal injury claim for compensation.
This highlights just how enormously life-changing a spinal cord injury can be. While this latest news must clearly be applauded, it is just one more step in many years’ of on-going research into whether damaged spinal nerves can be regenerated.
The nerves in the spinal cord do not regenerate. My advice to those who are newly spinal cord injured would be not to give up hope on a miracle cure being found but to focus on their rehabilitation to ensure they achieve their maximum potential, stay healthy and enjoy life.
Every year in the UK around 1,000 people are left paralysed after a spinal cord injury; according to Spinal Research. The majority of spinal cord injuries are caused by road traffic accidents, sports injuries and falls.
According to the Spinal Injuries Association, the leading UK charity for people with spinal cord injuries and their families, every eight hours someone in the UK is told that they will never walk again due to damage to their spinal cord.
The spinal cord is a cylindrical bundle of nervous tissue measuring 40 to 50 cm long which extends from the base of the skull to the lumbar region in the lower back.
A spinal cord injury occurs where damage is sustained to any part of the spinal cord or to any part of the cauda equina. This damage is often referred to as a ‘lesion’, and may be complete or incomplete.
A complete spinal cord injury is a lesion that extends across the full width of the nervous tissue and is indicated by a total lack of sensory and motor function below the level of the injury. Patients with a complete spinal cord injury unfortunately have a very low chance of recovery, especially if paralysis persists for longer than 72 hours
An incomplete spinal cord injury is a lesion that does not extend across the full width of the nervous tissue within the spine, meaning that the ability of the spinal cord to convey messages to or from the brain is not completely lost. People with incomplete injuries retain some motor or sensory function below the injury.
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