New treatment for spinal cord injuries

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Story Updated: Apr 9, 2014

A novel combination of electrical stimulation and physical rehabilitation has restored some measure of limb control to 4 patients who were paralyzed following spinal cord injuries.

Experts from the National Institutes of Health discuss the breakthrough in the journal Brain.

In 2009, 16 electrodes were attached to the injured spine of 1 paraplegic patient.

Electric pulse stimulation was then paired with an assisted exercise program.

Within 7 months, a man with zero movement and only limited sensation below his chest regained a significant degree of leg control demonstrating an ability to stand, without help, for up to 4 minutes.

How? The investigators think the treatment may somehow reawaken brain-body connections that remain dormant, but intact, even after serious injury.

The same approach has since been tried with 3 more paraplegic patients.

Within days, all regained some voluntary control of their lower limbs an achievement that could dramatically change the way spinal cord injuries are handled going forward.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV with the news doctors are reading health news for healthier living.

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