Technique could help those with C6, C7 spinal cord injuries
(May 15, 2012) Surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have restored some hand function in a quadriplegic patient with a spinal cord injury at the C7 vertebra, the lowest bone in the neck. Instead of operating on the spine itself, the surgeons rerouted working nerves in the upper arms. These nerves still “talk” to the brain because they attach to the spine above the injury.
Following the surgery, performed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and one year of intensive physical therapy, the patient regained some hand function, specifically the ability to bend the thumb and index finger. He can now feed himself bite-size pieces of food and write with assistance.
The case study, published online May 15 in the Journal of Neurosurgery, is, to the authors’ knowledge, the first reported case of using nerve transfer to restore the ability to flex the thumb and index finger after a spinal cord injury