Medical breakthrough enables spinal cord injury patients to walk again

4th October 2018 Clinical Negligence

Last week we heard about the amazing success an electrical pad has had in helping people paralysed by a spinal cord injury to walk again. The BBC reported that three patients, all paralysed from the waist down, took their first steps since their injury occurred.

After hearing this news I started to wonder what this could mean for the future of the spinal cord injury (SCI) patients who the JMW medical negligence solicitors have acted for. The spectrum of SCI the JMW team deals with is wide. Our clients have been affected by a range of spinal injuries including cauda equina syndrome, scoliosis and back fractures. Some are severely disabled and have had to come to terms with the fact that they will never walk again and they will be wheelchair dependant for the rest of their lives. Others have more invisible disabilities such as a poor-functioning bladder or bowel. What hope does this breakthrough offer to these patients?

In the three patients who have so far benefited the device worked by helping lost signals from the brain to reach the leg muscles. Placed below the injury, which in those patients was caused by an accident, it stimulated the nerves lower down the spinal cord. This allowed signals from the brain to reach the target muscles, enabling the person to control them again.

Although the SCI range is wide one thing all the JMW medical negligence clients have in common is that damage has been caused to nerves in the spinal cord. If that damage can be circumvented with this electrical patch then I do feel there is potential there for our SCI patients to benefit.

The electrical patch was developed in North America and is in the very early stages of testing so it’s not a product we are going to see offered to SCI patients in the near future. A case will have to be made as to why the UK government should consider investing in the future of this technology and its buy-in will need to be obtained. This is where the hard work starts. For my part, from working on behalf on behalf of such patients, I believe that to give a person improved mobility or control over their bladder or bowel will have an immeasurable positive impact on them and their quality of life.

At the very least this medical advancement should be researched fully so that the potential it offers can be understood.

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Angharad Hughes is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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