Spinal implant helps 3 paralysed men walk, aided by body weight support
We were inspired to read that a spinal implant helped three paralysed men to walk again (Source: The Independent, New Scientist). This marks the first time patients have regained leg movement and some ability to walk even when implant is turned off, Swiss researchers have found.
The treatment uses a surgically implanted set of electrodes which have been precisely mapped to the patients’ spinal cord, used in combination with a unit which sends electrical pulses in response to the patient’s intended leg movements.
The three paraplegic patients who participated in the study all recovered voluntary control over their leg muscles, and were able to walk with some Body Weight Support or a frame while the electrical stimulation was active. But the crucial development came when, after five months of training, patients were able to move their legs even when the implant was switched off.
Training on a Body Weight Support system (BWS) was an essential part of making this study successful. Optimal training conditions with BWS should include the following:
- Vertical supportive forces during over ground walking
- Assistive forces in walking direction to help a patient in the initiation of walking and during walking
- Freedom of movement in all directions, without being limited in any direction
We look forward to seeing more developments in this field, as this is exciting progress towards restoring function in people with spinal cord injuries.
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