Surgeons Restore Hand, Arm Movement to Quadriplegic Patients
A novel surgical technique recently restored some hand and arm movement to patients immobilized by spinal cord injuries in the neck, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Details regarding the technique were published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, where researchers discussed redirecting peripheral nerves in quadriplegics’ arms and hands by connecting healthy nerves to the injured nerves. According to researchers, the new nerve network reintroduces conversation between the brain and the muscles that allows patients, once again, to accomplish tasks that foster independence, such as feeding themselves or writing with a pen. “Physically, nerve-transfer surgery provides incremental improvements in hand and arm function. However, psychologically, these small steps are huge for a patient’s quality of life,” said the study’s lead researcher. “One of my patients told me he was able to pick up a noodle off his chest when he dropped it. Before the surgery, he couldn’t move his fingers. It meant a lot for him to clean off that noodle without anyone helping him.” Using this technique, surgeons connect working nerves in the upper arms to a patient’s damaged nerves in their arms and hands, targeting patients with injuries at the C6 or C7 vertebra. It typically does not help patients who have lost all arm function due to higher injuries in vertebrae C1 through C5. The researchers’ innovations are a result of a quarter century’s worth of nerve-transfer work and they hope to discover a way to restore full movement to the estimated 250,000 people in the United States living with spinal cord injuries. To read more about this technique, click here.
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