New treatment options bring hope for those with spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries remain a serious problem across the country and in Virginia. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that each year, somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries in accidents ranging from car crashes to falls. The leading cause of these injuries continues to be auto accidents. Costs for lifetime medical care after a spinal cord injury can vary from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars depending on how severe the injury.

Most spinal cord injuries affect young adults. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center has tracked an increase in average age linked to the overall aging demographics of the population. The average age at the time of injury is 41 year old. Approximately 270,000 people live with a spinal cord injury in the United States. Long-term consequences can include paraplegia, neurological impairments and psychological effects, such as anxiety and depression.

Because of the number of people affected by these injuries, researchers across the country have sought ways to help individuals regain sensation and continence control. Scientists believe a new hope lies in a combination of stem cell therapy and physical therapy.

Reversing the effects of a spinal cord injury

Early findings from a study underway at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School suggest that a combination approach treatment can restore some neurological function. The study included 70 patients who suffered cervical or thoracic spinal cord injuries. The patients had received at least six months of treatment, but showed no response. They were placed in one of two randomized groups. One of the groups received stem cells from their own bone marrow. The other group only received physical therapy.

The group treated with bone-marrow derived stem cells and physical therapy showed improvements in their sensation and muscle strength. In some cases, the increased muscle strength was enough to improve bladder and bowel function and allowed patients to live without the need of a catheter. Patients in the control group that only receive physical therapy did not show improvements during the same period.

At the end of the 18 months study, almost half of the patients in the combo treatment group had significant improvements. Several were even able to walk without assistance.

The team working on the research cautioned that they will need to conduct more studies with larger numbers of patients before they can determine proper dosing levels and appropriate intervals for delivering stem cell therapy.

If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident that was caused by the negligence of another driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. While new therapies are on the horizon, a personal injury attorney can ensure that you receive a fair settlement that affords for adequate treatment.