Can technological advances improve the lives of those living with paralysis? What advancements are on the horizon that may help individuals regain control over their limbs and bodies? New technologies are making it possible for some individuals with paralysis to regain some physical functionality following their injuries. These advancements are making it possible for individuals to walk, use their hands, and control motor functions.
Nationwide, there are approximately 5.4 million people living with some form of paralysis. While half of these are the result of strokes and Multiple Sclerosis, nearly 30% are the result of spinal cord injuries. Of the 1.6 million with spinal cord injuries, nearly 391,000 individuals suffered their injuries as the result of a car accident. Motor vehicle accidents are the largest single cause of injury to the spinal cord and it's estimated that approximately 1.7% of Americans have some form of physical paralysis.
Researchers in Brazil made a breakthrough in 2016 when they attached a robotic exoskeleton to the bodies of 8 paraplegics. The exoskeleton is controlled by a skull cap that the user wears to control the motion of the exoskeleton. While in the early stages of development, the device has gained worldwide attention because it showed a significant effect on patients who has been paralyzed for between 3 and 13 years. Researchers are encouraged because those who do not show improvement within the first year following paralysis rarely recover any limb function. This discovery means that this and similar technologies may very well be able to restore limb function to a significant number of individuals with paralysis.
A similar device is currently under development at the University of California in Berkeley. The SuitX is a manually controlled exoskeleton that users control via buttons within the suits attached crutches. The device makes it possible to walk at a speed of 1.1 miles per hour and the battery has an 8 hour charge. This gives considerable mobility to patients and allows them to walk and climb stairs. Most importantly, the device allows users to get out of their wheelchair which helps reduce back injuries and other problems that can be caused by long periods of sitting.
Advancements are also being made in the treatment of partial paralysis. Researchers at Toyota in Japan are developing a robotic leg that may make it possible for users to regain full use of their legs following recovery. The device is implemented as part of a monitored therapeutic regimen that makes it possible for the user's brain, nerves, and muscles to essentially relearn how to control the movement of the legs.
While treatments are becoming increasingly sophisticated, this sophistication also comes with increased costs. Since 1997, the nationwide cost of treating spinal cord injuries has grown considerably from $9.8 billion to more than $40.5 billion. This increased cost is due in part to the increased amount of therapy applied to treat paralyzed patients and the rising cost of the sophisticated technology being used to treat and aid those who are injured. For example, the cost of a robotic or physically manipulated exoskeleton currently stands at between $40,000 and $70,000.
Brad Pistotnik Law represents individuals who have suffered paralysis as the result of a motor vehicle accident on I-70, US 50, I-35, and other roadways that pass through Liberal, Hays, Wichita, and points throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, and Missouri. Our office helps clients pursue the compensation required to purchase the adaptive aids that can help those with full or partial paralysis recover limb function and regain their mobility so that they can work and improve their overall quality of life.
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