Nose used in pioneering surgery to allow paralysed man to walk again

news
21 October 2014

A man paralysed completely from the waist down after being stabbed in an attack, which left his spinal cord sliced in half is able to walk again after undergoing pioneering surgery, the online edition of the Irish Independent reported.

The 38-year-old Bulgarian patient, who suffered the injury in 2010, is believed to be the first person in the world to completely recover from the severing of his spinal nerves.

Bulgarian fireman Darek Fidyka can now walk with a frame and has resumed an independent life, even to the extent of driving a car. Sensation had to his lower limbs has also returned.

The surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from Darek's nose to provide pathways along which the growth of the broken tissue could happen.

Despite success in the laboratory, it was the first time the procedure had been shown to work in a human patient.

According to professor Geoffrey Raisman, whose team at University College London's Institute of Neurology discovered the technique, they believed that the procedure was the breakthrough which, with further development, would result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.

The surgery was performed by a Polish team led by one of the world's top spinal repair experts, Dr Pawel Tabakow, from Wroclaw Medical University, performed the surgery.

The procedure involved transplanting olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from the nose to the spinal cord.

OECs help repair damaged nerves that transmit smell messages by opening up pathways for them to the olfactory bulbs in the forebrain, The Guardian reported.

Relocated to the spinal cord, they seem to allow the ends of severed nerve fibres grow and join together which was earlier thought to be impossible.

While a number of patients with partial spinal injury had made remarkable recoveries, a complete break was thought to be unrepairable.

Raisman, who will treat three more patients in Poland over the next three to five years if the funding could be raised, said the patient was now able to move around the hips and on the left side he had experienced considerable recovery of the leg muscles.

He could get around with a walker and he had been able to resume much of his original life, including driving a car, he said, adding he was not dancing but he was absolutely delighted.

 





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