Progress Being Made on Spinal Cord Injuries

USA TODAY, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Progress Being Made on Spinal Cord Injuries


What is the current state of research and treatment of spinal cord injury? According to Wise Young, director of the Neuroscience Center at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., and consulting physician to paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve, much progress is being made:

* Due to the availability of new drug therapies such as methylprednisolone, patients should recover function for at least two segments of the spinal cord if not more (around 20%). Reeve's original injury left him without function below the C1 vertebrae, the one highest in the neck, but now his function is from the C4 vertebrae with sensation down to his lower back (sacrum).

* Researchers have learned that the effectiveness of these drugs depends on the timing of treatment, including at what point after injury the drug is given, the dose, the duration, and the severity of the injury--whether it is a complete or incomplete injury to the cord--that is, whether or not the spinal cord is severed.

* Research has revealed that too little of the drug results in no effect and too much seems to reverse the effect, providing no therapeutic value. This indicates that treatment should be individualized and that one therapy is not appropriate for all injuries.

* When methylprednisolone was combined with the drug GM1 to increase effectiveness in limiting injury, researchers found that the GM1 antagonized the methylprednisolone. As a result, they have concluded that methylprednisolone should be administered within the first 24 hours after injury and that GM1 is a more long-term treatment to be given separately for the next six to eight weeks. …

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