Spinal Cord Injury Therapies: New Treatments Show Promise

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Spinal Cord Injury Therapies: New Treatments Show Promise
Spinal cord injury therapies are evolving. Learn more about the causes of SCIs and advances in treatment.

Spinal Cord Injury Therapies

Spinal cord injuries can be life-changing. Depending upon where a spinal injury is located, it can leave the injured person with paraplegia or quadriplegia. These injuries can also lead to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, life-threatening blood clots, bladder dysfunction, bowel dysfunction and sexual dysfunction, muscle spasticity, constipation and other gastrointestinal problems, pressure ulcers, depression, and chronic pain. If you or a family member has suffered a spinal cord injury, you may be coping with a “new normal” that includes learning how to manage a variety of health conditions, to complete daily tasks such as grooming and toileting, and to use a wheelchair or other ability devices. While most people who sustain a spinal cord injury adjust very well, these injuries can impact every aspect of your life and change your life’s trajectory. Often the people who suffer spinal cord injuries are young and athletic. The demographic group most at risk are males aged 16 to 30.  A serious injury can cause a complete change in lifestyle. Many of us remember how film actor Christopher Reeve, who fell from a horse, went from playing Superman to being paralyzed and unable to breathe without assistance. With the help of his wife, Reeve established a foundation dedicated to helping those with spinal cord injuries and exploring possible cures. In recent decades, medical trials show promise for the future with regard to the treatment of spinal cord injuries.


Promising Research


There is a variety of experimental approaches in spinal cord research. Here are three of the most promising therapies currently under exploration:


  • Epidural Stimulation. This treatment involves the application of a continuous electrical current to the lower part of the spinal cord, which is delivered by a tiny strip of electrodes implanted over the dura (the protective coating) of the spinal cord. The University of Louisville in Kentucky held clinical trials with the aim of helping a small number of study participants with spinal cord injuries to stand and walk. While trial participants have not yet progressed to that point, they have been able to move their toes, feet, and legs on command. However, the treatment also had the unexpected effect of improving autonomic functions for all of the participants; they regained bladder and bowel control, sexual function, and temperature regulation. This recovery challenges the notion that the spinal cord, once damaged, can never be repaired. Some scientists believe that epidural stimulation, combined with drug therapies and locomotor training will lead to further breakthroughs.
  • Stem Cell Research. A number of different research teams in various countries are working on using stem cell therapy trials, including a team in Toronto. Stem cells are considered promising because they are self-renewing human cells that can differentiate into one or more specific cell types. The theory is that injecting stem cells into spinal cord injuries would limit cell death, stimulate growth from existing cells, and replace injured cells. Scientists think that stem cells would modulate the inflammatory response, which can cause further damage.
  • Link Between Blood Pressure and SCIs. In addition, some hospitals are following innovative protocols with spinal cord injury patients. These protocols include carefully calibrating blood flow to the spine, as many doctors believe that high blood pressure, particularly during initial surgeries, can be detrimental to recovery. This has been coupled with getting patients who need surgery into operating rooms as quickly as possible. Hospitals providing this standard of care to patients with spinal cord injuries report seeing excellent results in patient function.


Causes of SCIs


Major causes of spinal cord injuries include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents. Motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries.
  • Sports and recreation injuries. Athletic activities such as impact sports and diving in shallow water.
  • Falls. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to spinal cord injuries caused by falls.
  • Acts of violence. A percentage of spinal cord injuries are caused by violence, such as gunshot wounds.
  • Disease. Diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis can also cause spinal cord injuries.

It’s also worth noting that approximately 25% of spinal cord injuries happen in situations where alcohol is a factor.


If you or a family member has sustained a spinal cord injury due to a motor vehicle accident, you should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances, these injuries can be considered catastrophic, and a personal injury lawyer can assess your situation and help you to learn more about your options regarding insurance claims and taking legal action. These lawyers have experience with the legal system, the insurance system, and the medical system; they understand what your case is worth, and they can advise you about how to proceed. Personal injury lawyers don’t usually charge hourly fees -- work on a contingency basis, which means that they will get paid once you receive a settlement. Call a personal injury law firm today and get the compensation you deserve.