Neurostimulation Helps Paralyzed Teen Walk Again

February 27, 2012

Colorado teenager Kristen Adlhoch couldn’t resist trying to “hang ten” during a family vacation in Hawaii. She managed to stand up on a board, but then felt tingling in her legs. Adlhoch made her way to shore and collapsed on the beach. By the time her family got her to the hospital 20 minutes later, her legs were paralyzed.

Doctors believe that Adlhoch pinched a blood vessel to her spinal cord, depriving it of oxygen. The injury — known as surfer’s myelopathy — causes paralysis, but people usually recover. In rare cases, the paralysis can be permanent. Adlhoch never regained feeling in her legs, and may have lived the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair. But last week, the 19-year-old took her first steps since the accident — thanks to a neurostimulation device called the NESS L300.

Adloch’s solution leverages the same technology used by the Omega migraine procedure to treat chronic migraine pain. While the Omega procedure uses gentle neurostimulation to soothe nerves in the head which can cause chronic migraine pain, the FDA-approved NESS L300 uses neurostimulation to activate nerves and muscles to help Adlhoch lift her foot. A wireless remote allows Adlhoch to adjust the level of stimulation and turn the unit on and off — similar to a remote control used with the Omega procedure.

Both applications demonstrate the remarkable ways advances in neurostimulation have increasingly helped individuals who suffer from a wide range of medical conditions, including back pain, epilepsy, some spinal cord injuries and even chronic migraine pain.

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