More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Manitoba researcher says use of MRIs will help to assess spinal-cord injuries

Monday October 29 3:12 AM EST

WINNIPEG (CP) - A researcher at Winnipeg's Institute for Biodiagnostics has developed a groundbreaking non-surgical method of assessing spinal-cord damage. Dr. Patrick Stroman said he has found a way to use magnetic resonance imaging devices to assess spinal-cord damage.

"This isn't the cure for spinal-cord injuries, but it will be an important tool," he said.

Stroman believes MRIs are a much better assessment tool than the current practice of stimulating an area of the body and asking the patient if they can feel it.

"We'll be able to see with the MRI if there is activity below the point of where the cord was injured," he said. "The hope is this will give a doctor or clinician more information even if the patient can't feel it themselves.

Dr. Larry Jordan, director of the University of Manitoba's Spinal Cord Research Centre, said what Stroman is doing is "at the cutting edge of functional imagery of the spinal cord."

"This is definitely something that can be applied right away," he said.

Stroman said he wants to test people who have been living with their spinal-cord injury for more than a year, but he hopes the test will help design treatment and therapy for people who have just been hospitalized for the injury.

"It can help us know what we can do to improve functioning. If a person can get back just a little bit of movement to their arm, that would be great."

Stroman said during the first three years of research with the MRI, he has seen more than 150 volunteers without spinal-cord injuries and found where the cord is stimulated when different sensations are applied. Now he wants to do the same experiments with people with spinal-cord injuries.

Jordan said the technique will be "very useful" for looking at the changes that occur after spinal-cord injuries or multiple sclerosis.

Audrey McIlraith, executive director of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, said she's looking forward to the results of Stroman's research.

"We support it because it will help evaluate the form of treatment," she said.

McIlraith said the association will put out the word to its 1,100 members to find volunteers for the research project.

There are about 850 Manitobans and 35,000 Canadians living with spinal-cord injuries.

About 58 per cent of new spinal-cord injuries in Manitoba over the past six years have been caused by falls, accidents involving motor vehicles and snowmobiles, violence, diving and cycling accidents.

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