Patients that have experienced damage to their spinal cords may see success with a treatment involving repeated muscle stimulation. A new study was conducted at Helsinki University Hospital and it looks very promising.
Dr Anastasia Shulga was the leader of this study and she attempted something completely new. This was the first time that this type of long-term nerve stimulation was given to patients with spinal cord injuries for rehabilitation purposes. Two patients took part in the study, which involved a combination of magnetic transcranial stimulation and peripheral nerve simultaneous stimulation. These treatments were given for approximately 6 months on a regular basis.
After 6 months of the muscle stimulation treatment, the tetraplegic patient could already grasp an object. (Video Credit: Anastasia Shulga)
Both patients had trauma-induced injuries to their spinal cords. One was a tetraplegic that wasn’t able to grasp things with the hands and only had limited voluntary movement of them. The other was a paraplegic that was paralyzed below the knees. Conventional treatment and rehabilitation methods were used for both in the past and during the stimulation study.
After six months of treatment the tetraplegic patient restored the ability to grasp an item while the patient that was paralyzed below the knees was able to bend both ankles.
According to Dr. Jyrki Mäkelä who heads the BioMag laboratory at Helsinki University Hospital, it’s time for new treatments to be introduced. Rehabilitating people that have suffered long-term injuries to their spinal cords can be extremely difficult. He also went on to say that these were promising results even though the study only included 2 patients. Further studies will need to be put into place to find out whether this type of long-term associative stimulation could serve on its own or whether it should be combined with other treatments.
The results that the 2 patients experienced during the study were still evident even a month after the treatment ended. One of these patients is now involved in another study where the stimulation will be given for more than 6 months and more extensively.
Full study has been published in the journal of Spinal Cord Series and Cases.