New breakthrough treatment helps paralyzed man stand on own
May 20, 2011
(ChattahBox News) – A new treatment enabled a 25-year-old man paralyzed from the chest down to stand, and bear weight. Rob Summers a former college baseball pitcher was paralyzed below the chest in 2006 after being struck by a car. For 26 months, therapists at the University of Louisville moved Summers’ legs in a walking motion as he was suspended above a treadmill by a harness. Writing in the Lancet Medical Journal, the researchers say that their “unprecedented” achievement was made possible in December 2009, doctors implanted an electric nerve stimulator in Summers’ spine, below the area that was damaged. When the stimulator is turned on, a panel of 16 electrodes reactivates the nerves in Summers’ spinal cord a process designed to mimic signals the brain normally transmits to initiate movement, helping him move his muscles on his own. Now Rob is able to stand up using his own leg muscles while holding on to bars for support, bear his own weight for up to four minutes, and take steps on a treadmill with assistance. He’s also able to voluntarily move his hips, ankles, and toes, and he’s gotten back some bladder and sexual function. “I didn’t move a toe for four years,” said Mr. Summers. “I stood up on the third day they turned the stimulator on,” he said. “There are not enough words to describe how I felt.” The study’s authors cautioned that more work needs to be done before the technique becomes standard practice.