A pioneering surgical technique has restored some hand and arm movement to patients immobilized by spinal cord injuries in the neck, reports a new study at the School of Medicine. The researchers assessed outcomes of nerve-transfer surgery in nine quadriplegic patients. Each of the nine reported improved hand and arm function.
Surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, led by Susan E. Mackinnon, MD, 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.