Medical study at Vidant offers hope for those with spinal cord injuries

Published: Aug. 10, 2016 at 10:48 PM EDT
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Vidant Medical Center in Greenville is one of 22 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada selected as a site for a new study focusing on spinal cord injury patients.

Vidant neurosurgeon Dr. Stuart Lee says before this study, doctors would generally just fix the bones in a patient with a bad spinal injury. It really was the only option. But a new study is changing all of that.

Anthony Williams suffered a spinal injury and on May 26th became the ninth patient in this study -- the first person in eastern Carolina -- to have a neuro-spinal scaffold implanted.

Williams says, "i just said I have nothing to lose so if it helps me, it's a blessing. If it doesn't work I mean, I'm already paralyzed."

Dr. Lee says, "These patients really have zero option. They have less than two percent chance on their own that they will ever get any return of function so they really don't have much to lose by participating in the study and that's what our patient said. We take some bone off the back of the spine and then we make an incision in the dura."

That's the coating around the spinal cord. This small cut allows the bruising material to come out, leaving a small cavity in the spinal cord. Inside goes the spinal scaffold.

Dr. Lee says, "The outside is coated lycene to try to improve neural cells growing into the area of the injury of the spinal cord. Now obviously they're not going to reconnect perfectly. It's not possible yet. But the goal is to try to heal, help the spinal cord heal to some degree."

Williams says, "It can be hope you know. There's hope."

Dr. Lee says of the 10 participants, four of them have shown some level of improvement and he says after these early results, he is hopeful this study will expand to include more people.