New report shows locomotor training restores walking function in child with spinal cord injury

Jun 04, 2008

A new report shows that a non-ambulatory (unable to walk or stand) child with a cervical spinal cord injury was able to restore basic walking function after intensive locomotor training. The case study, published in Physical Therapy (May 2008), the scientific journal of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), evaluated the effects of locomotor training in a 4 ½ year-old-boy, who had no ability to walk following a gunshot wound sixteen months earlier.

"Every standard clinical evaluation conducted on this child indicated that he would not regain the ability to stand or walk," said Dr Andrea L Behrman, PT, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Florida and APTA spokesperson. Dr.Behrman, the lead author of the report, observes. "This case study is significant in that it shows that a severely injured spinal cord may be retrained." But, Dr Behrman cautions that, while this is a significant step in the right direction, not all children with severe spinal cord injuries will benefit from this type of treatment or have the same results.

Locomotor training refers to a process developed out of a partnership with scientists in which the patient is put in an environment to practice "walking" movements over and over again. Over the course of 76 sessions, the child was placed in an overhead body weight support system and suspended over a treadmill while three trainers helped simulate walking by moving his legs in a stepping pattern.

"With this system, the patient is partially supported, allowing the trainers to faciliate stepping and standing movements," Dr. Behrman explained. She cautioned that many rehabilitation facilities lack the equipment and staff skills to provide this kind of intense therapy, but that her case study clearly shows what can happen when available. "We are optimistic that this case study will give hope to individuals with spinal cord injuries as well as to their families," she said.

Dr Behrman noted that one month into locomotor training, voluntary stepping began and the child eventually progressed from having no ability to using his legs to moving with a rolling walker. The child is now fully ambulatory with a walker and attends kindergarten using a walker full-time. Although he has balance difficulties, requiring the use of a walker, Dr. Behrman said that, in time, a walker may not be necessary.

Source: American Physical Therapy Association

Explore further: Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

Medtronic spends $350M on another European deal

Aug 27, 2014

U.S. medical device maker Medtronic is building stronger ties to Europe, a couple months after announcing a $42.9 billion acquisition that involves moving its main executive offices across the Atlantic, where it can get a ...

Mind over matter for people with disabilities

Aug 26, 2014

People with serious physical disabilities are unable to do the everyday things that most of us take for granted despite having the will – and the brainpower – to do so. This is changing thanks to European ...

Ukraine's former world's tallest man dies

Aug 25, 2014

Ukraine's tallest man, who briefly held the world record but gave it up to live as a recluse, has died due to complications from the condition that saw him never stop growing, local media reported Monday.

User comments : 0