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An “off-the-shelf” implantable spinal cord stimulator currently used to treat chronic neuropathic pain may provide a novel strategy to foster recovery of neurological function in patients with chronic complete paralysis from spinal cord injury.
A recently published case series involving 4 patients with complete lower-extremity motor paralysis showed that epidural spinal cord stimulation in conjunction with intensive movement training over a period of up to 2 years resulted in the ability to intentionally execute movements of the lower extremities, including toe flexion and extension, ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion, and hip flexion (Angeli CA et al. Brain. 2014;137:1394-1409). These movements were seen clinically and confirmed by both electromyographical and tensile force data. The stimulator devices were implanted 2 to 4 years after injury.
Jin J. Implantable Spinal Cord Stimulator Allows Voluntary Movement in Individuals With Lower-Extremity Paralysis. JAMA. 2014;312(2):120. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.7508