Trial Conducted by Jefferson/Magee Spinal Cord Injury Center Will Compare Spinal Cord
A first-ever randomized study, undertaken to determine the best therapy for treating a paralyzing spinal cord injury, will begin this fall at the Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.
Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, the study will take five years to complete.
Until now, there have been no scientific studies in spinal cord injury to define which mode of therapy works best, explained principal investigator John Ditunno Jr., MD, Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, (JMC) and Director of the Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center.
Patients who have sustained an acute incomplete spinal cord injury will be eligible for the study. Approximately half of those who are treated at the Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center suffer this type of injury. During the study, participants will be treated with either conventional therapy which utilizes daily mobility retraining or a combination of conventional interventions and body weight-supported ambulation therapy.
Actor Christopher Reeve, who sustained a spinal cord injury after an equestrian accident in 1995 and is now a quadriplegic, is currently working with the weight-supported ambulation therapy at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The primary goal is to determine which type of therapy produces better ambulation status or walking ability, said Michael Saulino, MD, PhD, Instructor in Rehabilitation Medicine and Assistant Director of Resident Education in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, JMC. We also want to learn whether or not motor skills are improved. Dr. Saulino is also a principal investigator and physician at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.
The theoretical basis of body weight-supported therapy is a concept known as a central pattern generator.
This is based on a belief that the human spinal cord has an intelligence all its own that can generate steplike electrical patterns when exposed to sensations like walking, Dr. Ditunno said.
Patients must have sustained their spinal cord injury within eight weeks of taking part in the study, and have some feeling or movement below the level of their injury.
The Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center is one of five centers nationwide participating in the study.
The other participating centers are Rancho Los Amigos in Los Angeles, Ohio State University in Columbus; Shepherd Rehabilitation Center in Atlanta and a combined Canadian site involving McGill University in Montreal and the University of Ottawa.