New Techniques to Help Paraplegics

New implant designed to stimulate the roots of paralysed nerves may be a hope for paraplegics.

Researchers from London and the spinal treatment centre in Salisbury reported they used lumbar anterior-root stimulator implants (LARSI), placed in the spine at operation. These implants act by stimulating the nerves that supply the muscles in the legs. By stimulating these nerves at their roots, rather than as they enter the muscles, the researchers hope these implants will be more effective than other types of implant, such as those using external electrodes temporarily glued to the skin.

Their first patient, who received her implant in December 1994, has now been standing regularly for more than two years. Although her standing posture is still unsatisfactory, she has now taken 24 consecutive steps before needing to sit down. Six months after implantation, a second patient has just begun to stand.

"We are optimistic that LARSI implants will enable some paraplegics to stand (with balance support from their hands), to walk short distances and to do recreational cycling," the authors said.

Lancet, September , 1997