Paralysis is one of the most expensive disabilities to live with in Canada. It is also one of the most lifechanging. According to the National Institutes of Health, people suffering from spinal cord injuries paid from $336,000 to $479,600 in medical costs. For people who may lose the ability to work or even care for themselves, the effects are even more catastrophic than mere dollar signs on a balance sheet.
It is no wonder then that so many Canadians are excited about the study conducted at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville in America. According to Business Insider, the research helped two patients to take their first steps independently in years. One patient reportedly regained sexual function and some bladder control.
The center conducted trials before, but this was the first one that yielded such promising results. Of the two patients that learned to walk again, one became paralyzed after a motor vehicle accident, while the other had a mountain bike accident. Both were very active people before their biking accident, so paralysis was a major lifechanging event for them.
There are, however, two additional patients who have not yet regained the ability to walk. They were able to stand and did regain some sensation. These patients were also able to independently move parts of their bodies. The researchers believe that with more training and therapy, they may progress further along.
But, how does this treatment work? The research team implants a small device. It sends electrical currents directly to the spinal cord to stimulate it. Researchers believe that epidural stimulation helps the spine, the brain and the rest of the body to once again communicate in harmony to effect movement. They now intend to expand their study to include patients with more diverse types of spinal cord injuries.