Epidural Electrical Stimulation for the treatment of Spine Injury:
Spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (cauda equina) is damaged. It is a severe physical trauma often causing permanent changes in most aspects of daily life. Mental, emotional, and social functions of a person are significantly affected after a spinal cord injury.
A spinal cord injury is often the result of a sudden traumatic blow to the spine causing damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself. A gunshot or a knife can also cause spinal injury by cutting the spinal cord. The damaged area worsens over days and weeks from bleeding, inflammation and fluid accumulation in the spinal cord and intensifies the injury. If the injury is nontraumatic, the causes usually revolve around infections, inflammation or erosion of the disks of the spine. Sometimes, cancer and arthritis can also cause nontraumatic spinal cord injury.
The most common causes of spinal cord injury are listed below:
- violent encounters including gunshot wounds and knife wounds.
- car accidents involving major trauma to the head, neck, chest or back areas.
- damages caused by sports and recreational activities such as a strong impact on the head or spine during a sporting event or diving into shallow water and hitting the bottom.
- a fall from a height.
The State of Life After Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury and improvement are not very predictable events. If you have faced a recent spinal cord injury, it is very likely for you to question how your life is going to be now.
There is, unfortunately, no definite answer to it. There are instances where the survivors of devastating damages started walking unexpectedly. Then there are numerous patients undergoing physical therapy just to move their fingers.
Research shows that patients who try to retain a positive outlook, accept their condition and work hard to live a healthy life are more likely to have better outcomes.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind regarding life after a spinal cord injury.
The Position of the Injury is Important
It may not be a precise prediction, but the location of your injury may allow the doctors to determine the degree of your disability. Cervical spinal cord injuries are the most serious which will result in an inevitable loss of sensation and control on all four limbs and torso. The lower the injury site is down the spine, the lesser the chance of it being life-threatening or causing lasting disabilities.
Your Bodily Functions May Change
Survivors of spinal cord injuries most often preoccupy themselves with the most severe symptom, paralysis. There are, however, more to a spinal cord injury than loss of movement. According to the nature and the site of the injury, there may be other changes in your physical abilities.
- trouble controlling bladder and bowels.
- trouble breathing without aids.
- gastrointestinal complications.
- pain at the location of the injury or phantom pain spreading somewhere else.
- troubled sexual functions including decreased sexual urge and fertility issues.
Your Mental Health May Take a Toll
The challenges that come with life after spinal cord injury have a damaging impact on psychology. It is difficult to accept and work towards the changes caused by a spinal cord injury which often cripples the survivor with depression and anxiety.
Physical Therapy is a Reliable Friend
Many patients are disinclined towards practicing physical therapy especially after finding out how challenging it can be during the first few months. Few simple movements may look like an impractical solution to help with the healing process. Physical therapy, in reality, is a powerful tool that can rewire your brain and spinal cord and help you overcome several deficits. There is no guarantee as is common with spinal cord injuries, but physical therapies have made a remarkable improvement in a few patients.
Presently Available Treatment for Paralysed Patients
Unfortunately, at the moment, there is no way of undoing damage in the spinal cord once it occurs. But there are treatments that concentrate on preventing additional damage and enabling survivors to get back control over their life again.
Research on mending spinal cord injury is an ongoing project in the scientists’ community across the world. At present, the available treatments and therapies try to restore as much autonomy and productivity as possible in the life of a patient.
- Medication: Earlier, severe spinal cord injury was treated by means of Intravenous (IV) methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol). Recent research, however, revealed potentially serious side effects including blood clots and pneumonia. Thus, continued usage of methylprednisolone is strongly not recommended.
- Immobilization: Traction is sometimes required to stabilize the spine or aligning it correctly. A rigid neck collar is often used for this purpose.
- Surgery: Surgery is required to get rid of bone fragments, foreign objects, herniated disks or fractured vertebrae that might be constraining the spine. Another reason to opt for surgery involves stabilizing the spine to avoid disfigurement and further pain.
- Modern Wheelchairs
- Electronic Aids
- Computer Adaptations
- Electrical Stimulation Devices
What is Epidural Electrical Stimulation?
Epidural Stimulation Treatment for spinal cord injury is a new form of treatment for spinal cord injury survivors suffering from the loss of control over limbs and other lower parts of the spine.
In this procedure, the natural way of the brain to spine stimulation pathways are bypassed to establish direct nerve stimulation through the use of electrical currents on the lower part of the spinal cord.
Epidural stimulation for spinal cord injury is performed by inserting an epidural stimulation electrode into the epidural space located on the back of the vertebral spine bones. In other words, a group of electrodes is placed into the space on top of the dura right outside the spinal cord.
In this article, we will focus on epidural stimulation for spinal cord injury (SCI), also known as epidural electrical stimulation (EES) and epi-stim, a treatment for spinal cord injury that has steadily gained interest and prominence among both scientists and SCI survivours.
How Does Epidural Electrical Stimulation Work?
The electrode implant is devised to transmit electrical currents to trigger muscle contractions to enable the movement of targeted clusters of muscles. The neurons and axons all around the body usually remain in perfect form after a spinal cord injury. The problems occur due to the brain being unable to send and receive signals from them as the pathway gets damaged from the injury.
An epidural electrical stimulation device is implanted in a patient through surgery. It helps in reviving and utilizing the rest of the intact neural pathways within the spinal cord that initiates the movement that allows standing or walking.
How is Epidural Stimulation Beneficial for Spinal Cord Injury?
Presently, there is no complete cure for a spinal cord injury. Epidural stimulation for spinal cord injury, however, is a functioning revolutionary technique that is still evolving towards a better comprehension of a spinal cord injury and the necessary treatments for the same.
A bedridden and paralyzed patient is able to move their body parts with the help of this procedure. After the surgery, physiotherapy is required for an extended period of time along with the process of rehabilitation. The treatment is supervised by the best spine specialists who help the patient to gradually move their muscles, limbs, reduce their pain, and achieve better control over their bodies.
Potential Complications of Epidural Stimulation:
Epidural stimulation is still at a growing stage and is not completely risk-free. While it demonstrates great promise in helping patients regain control of some physical capabilities, there may be potential complications involved with the process. However, the risks are considerably less compared to repeated back surgeries. Besides, the epidural stimulation treatment for spinal cord injury seems to be a more efficient procedure than other chronic pain treatments.
Cost of Epidural Stimulation for Spinal Cord Injury in India:
Spinal cord injury treatment through epidural electrical stimulation is quite affordable in India and very reasonable in comparison to the treatment cost in developed nations or other developing nations such as the United Kingdom, Singapore and the United States of America.
Compared to the USA, where the cost ranges between 70,000 USD to 100,000 USD, the price of treatment for a Spinal cord injury or Epidural Electrical Stimulation in India is just around 35,000 USD to 45,000 USD. In some hospitals, the cost is even lesser, around 32,000 USD. Hence, with comparison to the USA, the expense towards the treatment in India is three times lesser. Furthermore, the patient receives quality treatment while saving up to 70 percent on the treatment expenses, inclusive of travel and other expenditures. This is a primary reason why foreign patients choose India over other countries for a spinal cord injury treatment where they receive quality treatment at less than half the cost in their country with equally satisfactory results.
How Long is the Hospital Stay Required?
A patient opting for spinal cord injury treatment in India is typically required to stay for a little over a month in the country. The stay includes evaluation and post-surgery physiotherapy consultation as per the OPD schedule. Hospital stay period for the implantation process requires around 10 days which is divided into 1 to 2 days in the ICU and a further 7 to 8 days for further observation.
Reasons to Visit India for Spinal Cord Injury Treatment:
There are a variety of reasons beyond the cost factor, for choosing treatment for spinal cord injury in India.
The most prominent reason would be the affordable and comparatively lower cost of treatment with respect to other countries. A patient has the option to choose from a range of high-quality medical services offered by various hospitals in India at nearly half the cost in their own country.
In addition to being affordable, India has some of the top medical institutions which can effectively treat spinal cord injuries with highly advanced medical technologies and a wide range of experienced and highly trained doctors and specialists.
A lot of medical travel facilitators in India can make your travel hassle-free, at optimal costs which might cost you a lot more in other countries. Some of them also provide additional support including foreign money exchange, accommodation and transportation facilities, post-treatment assistance such as rehabilitation or physiotherapy and post-operative follow-ups with your doctor.