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Medical Advancement for Spinal Cord Injuries

View profile for Wioleta Dworak
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Michel Roccati made international news for being the first person, with a completely severed spinal cord, to regain the ability to walk. This was made possible by ground-breaking advancements in medical technology which will hopefully lead the way in changing the lives of many who have suffered such a devastating injury.

Severed Spinal Cord

The spinal cord carries nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body and vice versa. We often do not think about how everyday movements are possible but, even the most basic tasks, like reaching out for a drink, involve a very complex process in our bodies. Our brain sends a signal, through the spinal cord to the part of the body which we want to move, often without consciously thinking about it. Therefore, when a spinal cord is severed, the communication system allowing the above process to take place is completely broken down.

Once a spinal cord is severed, either through an accident or medical negligence, the victim suffers paralysis below the point of impact. If the spinal cord is severed in the upper spine, the victim will suffer from quadriplegia, resulting in little or no use at all, of all limbs.  A severed spinal cord below the chest level, is likely to result in paralysis to the lower extremities. Either scenario will have a devastating effect on the victim’s life, often resulting in the need for around the clock care and extensive rehabilitation. Unfortunately, there is little chance of recovery of motor function. 

Spinal Implant

Last month, researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland, published the results of the ongoing clinical trial into a prototype of a spinal implant in Nature Medicine. The implant works through targeted neurotechnology which uses electrical stimulation to reactivate spinal neurons. The implant stimulates the region of the spinal cord injury that activates trunk and leg muscles.

The trial tested the device on three individuals, one of them being Michel Roccati. They were all able to stand and move their legs hours after surgery. All three men were able to walk, swim and cycle following the surgery. Each type of activity was specifically programmed, and the patients selected the desired activity on a tablet. The corresponding protocols are relayed to the pacemaker in the abdomen.

The trial is still ongoing, but the published results are truly ground-breaking for the victims of spinal cord injury. Gregoire Courtine, PHD & associate professor at the Swiss federal Institute of Technology Laussanne and Jocelyne Bloch, MD & neurosurgeon at the Lausanne University Hospital are responsible for this breakthrough. On when this technology could become available, Bloch commented as follows: ‘It’s still hard to say. There are still a few ongoing clinical trials, but I hope that within a few, let’s say two to three years, there will be a product available’.

Specialist Legal Advice

This technology is not yet available however, the medical community will be waiting with anticipation on the day that the trials conclude and, if successful, this technology will become available to those who need it most.

Advances such as this should also be closely followed by lawyers representing the victims of spinal cord injuries. One of the biggest parts of such claims includes a provision for the future in terms of care, accommodation and technology & aids which will assist the Claimant in living their life as independently as possible. When this technology becomes available and the Claimant is assessed as a suitable candidate, the cost of it should be vigorously pursued. The cost of this is likely to be significant and at least initially, unlikely to be available through the National Health Service.

Our specialist serious injury lawyers understand the tragic effect that a spinal cord injury can have on an individual and their loved ones and we have the expertise and the resolve to ensure that sufficient provision is made to allow our clients the best chance of recovery, independence, and good quality of life in the future.  We act for our clients on a no win no fee basis.

If you or someone you care about has sustained an injury because of an accident, please contact one of our specialist lawyers for a free no-obligation discussion on 0121 355 0011.