High-Tech Companies Aid Doctors With Helping Paraplegic Walk

Jan. 13, 2005
A ground-breaking development in electronics and surgical techniques in France has enabled doctors to get a 39-year-old paraplegic on his feet, albeit with walking sticks for stability, after an 18-hour operation. A chip was placed in the patient's ...

A ground-breaking development in electronics and surgical techniques in France has enabled doctors to get a 39-year-old paraplegic on his feet, albeit with walking sticks for stability, after an 18-hour operation. A chip was placed in the patient's stomach and linked to 14 electrodes that deliver electrical impulses to the muscles and nerves of his legs. The man has been paralyzed for nine years. American surgeons have already achieved similar results in the upper part of the body. But the European technology is the first to get the lower limbs functioning again. The operation, conducted at the Centre Propara in Montpellier, France, had been financed through a US$1.5 billion development program called "Stand Up and Walk," in which European governments and high-tech companies have put up cash and provided know-how and hardware. Pierre Rabischong, head of the French surgical team, plans half a dozen more operations on patients from all over Europe during the next few weeks. He says: "Once you have mastered the technology, the operation is quite simple and ought not to cost more than $25,000 for each patient." But he warns: "It won't work if the central nervous system in the spine is totally destroyed."

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