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Great Results from Study on Novel Surgery for Spinal Cord Injuries

spinal cord injuriesImagine the joy of being able to grasp a pen, feed yourself or even drive a car after years of being a quadriplegic. All nine patients who participated in a recent study regained some use of their lower arms and hands after undergoing an innovative surgical technique. Doctors connected their uninjured nerves in their upper arms with damaged nerves in their lower arms. The surprisingly positive results of this intervention offer hope to others who have suffered similar injuries.

The study, Nerve Transfers to Restore Upper Extremity Function in Cervical Spinal Cord Injury: Update and Preliminary Outcomes, took place at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The senior author of the study, Susan E. Mackinnon, M.D., directs the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the School of Medicine.

A Novel Surgical Technique for Spinal Cord Injuries

Researchers believe that patients with spinal cord injuries at levels C6 or C7, the lowest cervical vertebrae in the neck, might benefit most from this type of surgery. The injury is at a level where, even though the lower arms are paralyzed, the nerves in the upper arms remain functioning. The surgical procedure connects the intact nerves in the upper arm to the injured nerves in the lower arms and hands. Those with spinal cord injuries from C1 to C5 will not benefit from this technique, since the nerves in their upper arms have also been injured.

The procedure can be performed years after the accident. The surgery takes about four hours, and patients go home the next day. However, the return of movement does not happen instantaneously. Recovery takes from six to 18 months, including “extensive physical therapy to train the brain to recognize the new nerve signals.”

Mackinnon plans to continue her work in nerve transfer technique. She expressed encouragement that all nine patients in the study experienced improvement and enjoyed the return of some use of their lower arms and hands. They regained significant independence – for instance, becoming able to hold a glass and drink water without requiring assistance.

As a spinal cord injury victim or loved one of a victim, you’ve likely been researching treatments to resolve your pain and restore function. However, whether you just received news from the emergency room that your nephew might never walk again or you yourself have been struggling through rehab for months, you likely also need experienced, qualified, compassionate professionals to help you. Our Colorado spinal cord injury attorneys would like to learn more about what happened to you in your truck or motorcycle crash (or whatever happened) and provide a free consultation about your options. Please contact us today.



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