Wednesday, April 30, 2014

3 Tech Advances Improving the Lives of Spinal Cord Patients

Spinal cord injuries are some of the most life-altering afflictions in the world. They affect everything a patient does, from getting out of bed in the morning to completing the simplest of daily tasks. Advancements in medical and assistive technologies are improving the quality of life for patients dealing with a spinal cord injury or recovering from spine surgery. Three are highlighted below:

Bladder Control Microchip

A common side effect of spinal cord injuries is difficulty or complete loss of bladder control, which makes working and getting out of the house for other activities frustrating. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reported on a University of Cambridge experiment performed on rats with spinal cord injuries. Researchers implanted a microchip that prevented unwanted voiding of the bladder. Ask your doctor about similar technology available for people, and for more information on bladder management, visit

Surgical Improvements

Spinal cord surgery used to be an extensive and invasive procedure that required months of recovery. Due to advancements in laser-based and laser-assisted medicine and lower infection rates, many spinal cord surgeries are now done on an outpatient basis as a minimally invasive procedure. Conditions that may be able to be treated with this method include:

  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Bone spurs
  • Bulging, herniated, ruptured and slipped discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Pinched nerve
  • Sciatica
These surgical procedures deal with the core issue as well as the other issues related to traditional spinal cord surgery recovery and aftercare. When patients aren't worried about surgical complications, they can focus on the rehabilitation process and overall life improvements. For more information on minimally invasive spine procedures, visit Laser Spine Institute.

Assistive Technologies

Several forms of assistive technology are making a big difference in the lives of those with a spinal cord injury. Wheelchairs in particular have seen significant advances—lighter materials, better engines and easier controls are helping patients get around easier. Stair lifts that work with the chair and stand-alone models deal with the tricky issue of getting to upper floors without an elevator. Technology is also being developed so wheelchairs can eventually deal with that issue directly, instead of requiring a lift.

Computers and mobile devices have received several upgrades in this area, too. Speech-to-text programs help those who can't type, and specialized computer mice and keyboards are also available to accommodate special needs. Tobii PCEye uses eye motions to provide computer control, so people with limited or no arm and hand movement can use a computer for work and general browsing. Access to a computer helps quality of life through providing normalcy, entertainment and employment options.

Smartphones and tablets have apps that provide similar functionality, and their mobility means they can be mounted on a wheelchair or another convenient location for easy use. A stylus or other accessory can be used to assist with input.

For more information on assistive technologies that can help after spinal cord injury, visit the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


Anonymous said...

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