After surgery many people with spinal cord injuries live with paralysis for the rest of their lives. But that phenomenon can be dramatically improved by placing a small wireless device inside the spinal cord and stimulating it with many tiny pulses of electrical current called Speaker-ministation.
The technology promises to reduce discomfort and improve mobility of affected patients offering an example of the potential of wireless stimulation in medical practices.
I essentially can comfortably use this technology said Dylan Nordlund an associate professor in Rochester Institute of Technologys (RI) Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the projects lead author. I can control the amount of the stimulator on my wrist by touching a small spot as I should do if I hold a stand in a workshop. That makes treat-oriented work easier.
Using technology that uses thin wireless channels with tiny pads to pass electrical signals this technology could change how doctors and patient relationships are wired. In previous studies for example Nordlund and his colleagues have seen just such a reduction in muscle stiffness after electrical stimulation that produced measurable improvements in function and quality of life. Moreover the device saved as many as 15 percent of the spinal cord injuries that most affected experts in the US (as many as 42000 a year).
Now they have reached a point where they can use this with surgical patients requesting treatment for example.
We set out to find our best application. We came up with something fairly simple in which the wires are avoided increasing the stimulation to the levels as possible with the use of Wireless Power controlling the lower portion of the spinal cord by means of speaker-ministation. Hopefully you would feel all the benefits that will immediately come from using this Nordlund said.
Noting that this is not something already all doctors are using it still offers a relatively new therapeutic option for those who already have spinal cord injury.
Nordlund will present their findings at the annual IEEE International Conference on Neural Computation (ICC) in San Diego this month. With the installment he hopes the demonstration might inspire others to adopt the treatment if patents on the tech are not applied.
Free for children and young adults with spinal cord injuries the stimulator can be brought from a hospital controlled by the provider on demand without any patient interaction.
Recent studies from Nordlunds lab have shown that the incision of the spinal cord so painful for many patients also elicits large and useful electrical fluctuations in the central nervous system (CNS) in response to a stimulus the result of which sends electrical impulses through the spinal cord to the brain.
The new device harnesses the treatment concept as well. Like previous wireless devices and pads typically used for medical devices the lever moves forward through the body to several meters allowing it to be used for eye-opening or other activities in a fully polydactorial fashion.
Similarly the wireless design eliminates the need to detach to any part of the surgical body. This saves the use of a small expensive body part in limbs for others who need the device the most.
Customizable simple to carry and simple to use the technology works as a wireless stimulation pad for different situations in the body including the lengthening of the length of time required to tell people they are within the five-hour window of a full recovery period.
End-of-life devices in the medical field.
Nordlund said that the device would likely appear widely when development of wireless appliances starts in the future rather than be available to most of the population.
Thanks to this device many patients would be able to go home once enabled thereby reducing the pain discomfort and loss of mobility associated with conventional use of spinal cord injury devices he said. This would improve not only the ease of use but also the quality of life of others with spinal cord injuries.