Introduction – Spinal Cord Injuries

A spinal cord injury usually begins with a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine which fractures or dislocates vertebrae. The damage begins at the moment of injury when displaced bone fragments, disc material, or ligaments bruise or tear into spinal cord tissue.

Most injuries to the spinal cord don’t completely sever it. Instead, an injury is more likely to cause fractures and compression of the vertebrae, which then crush and destroy the axons, extensions of nerve cells that carry signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. An injury to the spinal cord can damage a few, many, or almost all of these axons. Some injuries will allow almost complete recovery; others will result in complete paralysis.

At present, standard spinal cord injury care focuses on urgent emergency care, which is comprised of medications designed to reduce inflammation, immobilization designed stabilize and align the spine, and surgery to remove bone fragments, foreign objects, and damaged discs or vertebrae which compress the spine.

By the time patients leave the hospital, their doctors have given up on the possibility of repairing their damaged spinal cords. Consequently, patients are assigned to rehabilitation to teach them how to live with their disabilities.

The A1 Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury Treatment

The spinal cord injury treatment is unique because it focuses on repairing tissue damage and restoring function to improve each patient’s quality of life.

Patients are treated by injecting the stem cells by lumbar puncture, by a catheter into the spine or by injecting them directly into the dammaged area after surgery.

Almost 60% of the spinal cord injury patients treated with stem cells show improvement.

Diagnostics and Physical Assessment

Before stem cell implantation, each patient undergoes blood tests at the clinic and a comprehensive physical and cognitive assessment. Spinal cord injury patients may also undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Step 1 – Bone Marrow Collection

Bone marrow is collected from the patient’s iliac crest (hip bone) using thin-needle mini-puncture under local anesthesia. Though some pain may be felt when the needle is inserted, most patients do not find the bone marrow collection procedure particularly painful. The entire procedure normally takes about 30 minutes.

Once the bone marrow collection is complete, patients may return to their hotel and go about normal activities.

More detailed information on the bone marrow collection procedure is available in the Bone Marrow Informed Consent document (PDF file).

Step 2 – Laboratory Processing

The stem cells are processed from the bone marrow in a state-of-the-art, government approved (cGMP) laboratory. In the lab, both the quantity and quality of the stem cells are measured. These cells have the potential to transform into multiple types of cells and are capable of regenerating or repairing damaged tissue.

Step 3 – Stem Cell Implantation

The stem cells are implanted back into the patient.

Lumbar puncture

A lumbar puncture is a puncture of the spinal canal using a fine needle, beveled at the front, in the lumbar region (lowest vertebrae of the back) of the spinal column for extracting spinal fluid (nerve or cerebral fluid). Lumbar punctures are primarily performed to diagnose for instance inflammatory disorders of the nervous system such as meningitis or multiple sclerosis. The extracted fluid, which is usually clear like water, in such cases is then examined in various ways in the laboratory.

During the LP for the stem cell therapy a volume of spinal fluid is extracted that is equivalent to the volume of your own stem cells intended for transplantation, so as little pressure difference as possible occurs in your spinal fluid space.

Changes in the pressure of the spinal fluid can cause headache. This pain is not dangerous and rarely lasts longer than 1 – 2 days, but the pain can be uncomfortable especially when getting up from a horizontal position due to the changing pressure ratios.

More detailed information on the LP procedure is available in the LP Informed Consent Document (PDF File).

Following Treatment

Patients treated by lumbar puncture may return home the day after treatment.

Spinal Cord Injury Stem Cell Treatment Results

From the 184 treated patients with Spinal Cord Injury 162 patients (more than 88%) returned the post treatment questionnaires.

Clinical Improvements were reported in 56.8% of the patients.

Improved bladder and bowel function was reported in 37.7% and 35.7% respectively of the improved patients.

In these patients, also neurogenic pain and muscle spasm improved 52.7% and 50.7% respectively. In 2 patients, the Baclofen® pump for treatment of spasm could be removed permanently after treatment.

Completed pre- and post-treatment ASIA Score forms could be collected in 25% of the patients (46 cases). After treatment, the mean ASIA motor score increased significantly (p<0.001) with 6.0 points, and the mean ASIA sensory score with more than 11 points (p<0.001). In 4 cases, there was a change in ASIA classification: ASIA-A (complete motor /sensory loss below SCI) to -B (complete motor loss) in 3 cases, and ASIA-C (major motor loss) to -D (minor motor loss) in 1 case. None of these 46 patients did deteriorate during the study.

Patient Stories

Lavinia Conopan – 31 years old
“…I can now feel when I need to go to the toilet and my bladder capacity has increased…”

Ransom Doyle – 52 years old
“…I have been able to increase my distance walking to over 400+ meters with a cane and riding a two-wheel bicycle over a mile at a time…”

Rich Welsh – 27 years old
“…If you happen to have the chance of autologous stem cell treatment do not let it pass you by…”

Treatment Evaluation Process

In order to be evaluated for stem cell treatment, patients must complete an online medical history form. Once you’ve completed the online medical history and submitted it, a patient relations consultant will contact you. He or she will assist you with the rest of the evaluation process. Upon treatment approval, your consultant will also assist you with treatment scheduling and trip preparation.