Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of spinal cord injury (SCI).
SCI may result in some form of paralysis, but researchers have discovered an innovative way for patients to regain mobility.
The spinal cord is a column of nerves that carry impulses or messages from the brain to other parts of the body. SCI refers to any damage that occurs to the spinal cord. The usual cause is a sudden, violent blow that dislocates or fractures the vertebrae.
Complete vs. incomplete
There are two kinds of SCI. In a complete injury, the victim will lose all ability to feel below the site of the injury. With an incomplete SCI, some functioning will remain below the level of the injury. Depending on the location, the result can be paralysis to both arms and legs or to the legs only. However, not all symptoms of SCI are immediately recognizable, so vehicle crash victims should seek prompt medical care.
Researchers in Switzerland have developed technology that looks promising with regard to helping paralyzed patients walk again. The technology involves inserting a spinal implant with electrodes that attach to nerve fibers. The first patient to receive the implant had suffered a motorcycle crash that severed his spine. After the surgery, he could stand and walk again, even climb stairs. Other patients received the implant with similar results. Researchers caution that this innovation is not a cure. However, it gives hope to paralyzed patients that the implant can improve quality of life and lead to further research and an eventual cure for SCI.