AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 2, 2019

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Spinal Cord Stimulation, Physical Therapy Help Paralyzed Man Stand, Walk with Assistance

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Spinal cord stimulation and physical therapy have helped a man paralyzed since 2013 regain his ability to stand and walk with assistance. The results, achieved in a research collaboration between Mayo Clinic and UCLA. 

With an implanted stimulator turned on, the man was able to step with a front-wheeled walker while trainers provided occasional assistance. He made 113 rehabilitation visits to Mayo Clinic over a year, and achieved milestones during individual sessions: 

  • Total distance: 111 yards (102 meters) — about the length of a football field
  • Total number of steps: 331
  • Total minutes walking with assistance:16 minutes
  • Step speed: 13 yards per minute (0.20 meters per second)

“What this is teaching us is that those networks of neurons below a spinal cord injury still can function after paralysis,” says Kendall Lee, M.D., Ph.D., co-principal investigator, neurosurgeon and director of Mayo Clinic’s Neural Engineering Laboratories. 

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