PodMed TT – Breakthrough Treatment Helps Paralyzed People Walk Again

Walking. It’s something the vast majority of us take for granted, but for people who’ve experienced accidents that have severed their spinal cord, the ability is priceless. So, as Rick and I applaud on PodMed TT this week, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine describing recovery of the ability to walk in two patients and the ability to balance in two others is welcome news indeed. Especially, as the paper reminds us, to the 1.3 million or so folks in the U.S. alone who live with the reality of being unable to walk.

The patients in this trial had experienced injury 2.5 to 3.3 years prior to their training to regain the ability to walk. The two who were successful had high thoracic and cervical injuries and had failed to achieve locomotion following intensive treadmill training alone. The key appears to be a device that provides spinal cord epidural stimulation in synchrony with the higher cortical intention to walk. The video is especially moving and we highly recommend watching it. What’s clear, as we agree in the podcast, is that the training is very intensive, and may be impractical for a large population. But the fact that it is possible opens the possibilities of streamlining and improvement of the device, and provides hope for those who’ve experienced such a loss.

Other topics this week include another from the NEJM on the use of a clip on the mitral valve to improve back flow of blood in people with congestive heart failure; another in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on the medical inaccuracy of digital assistants like Alexa, and one from the Journal of the American Medical Association on long term outcomes following antibiotic treatment of appendicitis.

Until next week, y’all listen up and make healthy choices.