A pioneering surgical technique has restored some hand and arm movement to nine patients immobilized by spinal cord injuries in the neck, reports a new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Bypassing the spinal cord, the surgeons rerouted healthy nerves sitting above the injury site, usually in the shoulders or elbows, to paralyzed nerves in the hand or arm. Once a connection was established, patients underwent extensive physical therapy to train the brain to recognize the new nerve signals, a process that takes about 6–18 months.
Ref: Nerve transfers to restore upper extremity function in cervical spinal cord injury: Update and preliminary outcomes. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (October 2015) | DOI:10.1097/PRS.0000000000001641