Walking Again: 5 Technologies That Could End Paralysis

Posted in Research and Development by Chris Wiltz on July 3, 2014

Medtech advancements are giving paralyzed patients more hope than ever of being able to walk again.

Spinal cord injury (SCI) and paralysis are two of the most debilitating and costly chronic conditions known today. According to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation one in 50 people (6 million people) in the United States alone are living with paralysis. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) located at The University Alabama at Birmingham estimates there are there are 12'000 new cases of SCI in the United States per year caused by a variety of conditions including car accidents, work-related injuries, sports injuries, and violence.

SCI patients spend an average of anywhere from $228,566 to $775,567 in the first year and estimated lifetime costs can go as high as $3 million for a 25 year old SCI patient.
Medical technology has made a number of breakthroughs in recent years, with several important announcements and studies being released this year. Advancements in motors and sensor technologies and new neurostimulation technologies are giving paralytics more hope than ever of being able to walk again.
Here are some technologies that hold promise for a future of improved quality of life for people suffering from paralysis.
[image via ReWalk Robotics]
-Chris Wiltz, Associate Editor, MD+DI

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Such a WRONG title!

Spinal cord injury is so much more than walking!! Just because someone who has a SCI is up on their feet being moved by a robotic type device, either external or implanted, does not "cure" or "end" paralysis. SCI also involves, for most people, loss of control over defecation, urination, sexual functioning, and the ability to control body temperature normally.

If you talk to people with SCI (who by the way are NOT rich and who for the most part cannot afford these expensive toys), they will tell you that they would settle for using a wheelchair and not walking if they could just get back having control over their bowels, and bladder, and have normal sexual functioning.

Money that should be spent on research for finding a true cure for SCI is being diverted into these expensive technologies that will not provide people with SCI a true freedom from their paralysis, and instead is being done by for-profit enterprises who want to make big bucks off their injuries.

I agree with some of what you said SCI-Nurse, but not all

I have been paraplegic since I was a teenager, over 30 years. Yes, SCI is more than just losing the ability to walk. We need a real cure. But, I believe the cure will involve many different therapies combined, including robotics (at least initially). And, many other disabilities will benefit from robotic technologies.

While many people with SCI injury are more concerned with bladder/bowel/sex function than walking, most injuries these days are incomplete and every injury is different.

Most women I know with SCI do not have a problem reaching orgasm. Men with SCI are more likely to have problems with sexual dysfunction. But not all. Same with bladder and bowel issues.

While I wouldn’t want to see research funds diverted from biological therapies, I am thrilled to see how far we have come with robotics. And, I would be thrilled to be able to walk with the help of a robotic device.

For me personally, increased motor ability is on the top of my list when it comes to a cure (or partial cure) for SCI.