Oct
20
2018

Leg Paralysis Can Be Treated

Several publications show that leg paralysis can be treated. This goes against the clinical experiences throughout the world. The common school of thought was that spinal cord injuries from a severe accident would lead to permanent damage. New research has proven that this is not so.

The publication to show that leg paralysis can be treated

On Sept. 24, 2018 the New England Journal of Medicine reported about several cases where completely paralyzed people were able to walk again with the help of a walker. A surgeon implanted a spinal cord stimulation device was under the skin of the abdominal wall. From there electrodes were going under the skin into the lower lumbar spine and upper sacral area close to the spinal cord. This allowed the muscles of the lower body half to receive the same nerve impulses that the muscles above the injury received. With extensive physiotherapy treatments the body was able to relearn the muscle contractions of the legs and feet.

Relearning how to walk

The next step was to relearn the steps of walking. There was a group of 14 patients with spinal cord injuries who had implantation of a spinal cord stimulation device. They were eventually able to walk again with a walker. The walker was necessary to stabilize their gait. One male took a chance and did not use a walker. He fractured his hip after a fall. But eventually he was making a full recovery and is able to walk now with a walker.

Details of a case of full leg paralysis

Kelly Thomas was driving in a car and lost control. The car ended up at a tree, severely deformed. She was unconscious for several weeks and needed treatment in the hospital. She was 19 and paralyzed from the chest down. Kelly is 24 now and she is able to walk again with the help of a walker. A surgeon had implanted a stimulation device in her abdominal wall with electrodes going to her lower back. The stimulator is passing on the signals coming down from the healthy spine. Electrical signals from the healthy spinal cord make their way to below the severed spinal cord. This though was only the first step.

The second step, a lengthy physiotherapy program

The second step was a lengthy physiotherapy program. All of the previous memories of learning to walk as a child are no longer there in a paralyzed person. The body has to relearn muscle contractions, coordination of muscles, moving of a foot or lower leg. Then all of these sub movements have to blend together into a smooth movement associated with walking. A walker helps to stabilize the gait. This link described more details regarding Kelly’s recovery and how hard she had to work on the physiotherapy part to finally achieve her walking. Leg paralysis can be treated.

Other studies showing people rising from wheelchairs

Here are two other studies that show how other people were able to rise from their wheelchairs.

2015 study

A 2015 study explains how the researchers were able to make one patient walk again. They used a recording of the brain currents (EEG) and pass that information on to below the spinal cord injury. This involved a lengthy learning procedure followed by many physiotherapy treatments. In the beginning it was important to have the patient suspended from the ceiling to prevent falls. Subsequently the patient could walk unsuspended.

2016 study

In a 2016 study eight patients were treated with the system described in the previous paper. Brain-machine interfaces recorded and transmitted the electrical brain activity to below the spinal cord injury. An intense 12-month physiotherapy program enabled the patient to regain her capability to walk. Only 50% of the participants were able to complete walking. There were some drawbacks of this procedure. Thoughts were interfering with brain wave recording. Also, a lack of focusing on the walking process could make it impossible for the person to walk.

Discussion re. leg paralysis can be treated

Walking again after a spinal paralysis is the dream of 1.275 million people with paralysis in the US.  Since these recent scientific findings one can truly say “leg paralysis can be treated”. There are about 8000 that would like to participate in a program, which Kelly Thomas has successfully completed. Her procedure seems to be the scientifically more robust program, although it is invasive considering that a surgeon has to implant the spinal cord stimulation device. The implanted device funnels the brain signals from above the severed spinal cord to below the injured cord. From there the electrical signals travel via the regular nerves into the muscles of the lower extremities. Extensive work with a physiotherapist is still necessary to complete the ability to walk again. For tissue defects, extracellular matrix treatment helps. For leg paralysis think spinal cord stimulation device implantation and physiotherapy treatments.

Leg Paralysis Can Be Treated

Leg Paralysis Can Be Treated

Conclusion

Lately great strides forward made it possible to help help people with paralysis enabling them to walk again. The most promising system is the one involving Kelly Thomas presented here. Briefly, following a serious car injury with a spinal cord crushing injury she received a spinal cord stimulation device. The stimulation device sends the electrical encoded muscle commands to below the scar of the spinal cord injury. The electrical impulses from above the spinal cord scar transmit smoothly to below the scar. The body does the rest.

Lots of physiotherapy

But the body needs a lot of coaxing to relearn the old body movements that connect with walking. A lot of that knowledge receded into the background following the spinal cord injury. However, extensive and prolonged physiotherapy treatments can achieve this. The Spinal Cord Injury Research Centers throughout the US have done a tremendous job researching this area. This resulted in new ways how to make paraplegic people walk again.

About Ray Schilling

Dr. Ray Schilling born in Tübingen, Germany and Graduated from Eberhard-Karls-University Medical School, Tuebingen in 1971. Once Post-doctoral cancer research position holder at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, is now a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).