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More MS news articles for July 2003

Stimulation Help Spinal Cord Patients Walk Again

Implanted Device Helps Muscles Move

5:38 p.m. EDT July 17, 2003
Ivanhoe Broadcast News

Paralysis clearly means learning to give up many of the activities to which you are accustomed to doing. In many cases, that can mean not being able to go places that aren't wheelchair accessible or even standing to get something off a shelf.

Now, new research at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia brings paralyzed people a little closer to a normal life.

With the push of a button, something amazing happens to Les Kirk. He is beating all odds and a spinal cord injury.
"Before I even talked to the doctors, I couldn't move my legs," Kirk said.

He may not be riding motor cross anymore, but walking a set of stairs is a different type of excitement -- for Kirk, and for Dr. Randal Betz.

"It makes all the years of research work and all the dollars that the Shriners so generously put forth really worth it," said Betz, a pediatric spinal surgeon at Philadelphia Shriners Hospital.

Kirk has an implanted receiver with an external antenna. Wires connect the electrodes located on his muscles. When activated, electrical stimulation forces his muscles to contract or relax in a specific pattern.

"Just as you and I would do except that instead of us doing it by our brain, it's being done by a computer," Betz said, and unlike a typical person, Kirk's muscles stay stimulated until the device is deactivated, limiting how far he can go. What stops Kirk's muscles from going 200 feet or 500 feet is that they're exhausted, according to Betz.

"It's like you or I running a hundred-yard dash," he said.

Kirk had to work hard to strengthen his muscles so he can do more, but it's safe to say he's mastered the technology enough to do daily activities, as well as some activities he thought he'd be forced to give up.

"I ride my four wheeler standing up and stuff. That's pretty neat," he said.

For the functional electrical stimulation to work, a person has to have spasticity in the muscles and living nerves. Betz said it can help people with spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. As at all Shriners Hospitals, the treatment is completely free to patients.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Therese Johnston
Research Associate
Shriners Hospital for Children
(215) 430-4089

Copyright © 2003, Ivanhoe Broadcast News