Sunday, July 22, 2007

Treatment Gets Partially Paralyzed Upright Again

Bob Konieczko became partially paralyzed after falling off a roof. For the past three years, he's been mostly confined to wheel chair but today he's learning to walk again.

"Regaining the strength in my midsection which is the important part here. So very, very steady slow progress,” said Konieczko.

Spinal cord damage disrupts the travel of messages from the brain to the legs and feet. Doctors are using locomotor therapy to retrain the body, with hopes the repetition will help the spinal cord remember.

"We believe that the stepping reflex is actually held through the cord, so we're really retraining the spinal cord,” said Dr. Steve Williams, Boston Medical Center.

The trial is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation.
The goal is to show that the therapy, which can add up to $50,000 dollars for 60 sessions, can be cost effective. Researchers believe patients on the move won't suffer sedentary injuries.

"One of the problems that many spinal cord injury patients face is a bed sore or an ulcer. The studies have shown to heal a single bed sore can cost $100,000 so, if people can walk they have no risk of bed sores,” said Dr. Williams.

Bob and other patients say they're proof the therapy works.

"My stamina is a lot better,” said Konieczko.

"I don't walk with a walker anymore, I use the crutches and my distance has almost doubled as far as I can walk,” said patient Rich Maloney.

If results remain positive, locomotor therapy could one day get other partially paralyzed patients back on track. The Boston Medical Center is still looking for spinal cord patients to take part in the study.