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28 February 2023 | Comment | Article by Gareth Beard

Research into spinal cord stimulation for the benefit of patients affected by strokes

According to figures published by the World Stroke Organisation, around one in four people globally will experience a stroke within their lifetime. Statistics published by The Stroke Association state that in the UK, 100,000 people suffer a stroke every year and there are 1.3 million stroke survivors in the UK.

A stroke occurs either when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off by a blood clot or where a blood vessel in the brain bursts, which then causes damage to brain cells in the relevant part of the brain.

Visit the NHS website for guidance on the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

Patients who survive a stroke are often left with long-term effects. These effects can include persistent muscle weakness or paralysis leading to difficulties in using their arm/hand or legs, as well as speech, swallowing and memory difficulties.

Growing up, I experienced first-hand the impact that a stroke had on my grandad.

A recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University in the United States has been published demonstrating early evidence that spinal cord stimulation could offer benefits to patients who experience chronic upper limb weakness after a stroke.

The researchers implanted an electrode array into the spines of two stroke patients which allowed for spinal cord stimulation. This led to an improvement in the participants’ arm and hand strength and range of movements.

Whilst further research is ongoing into the safety and efficiency of spinal cord stimulation in stroke patients, it could, in the future, offer a way of transforming the lives of patients and clients who are left with debilitating effects after a stroke.

If a patient is displaying signs or symptoms of a stroke, on arrival at hospital they will usually undergo a number of investigations, which may include a brain scan. A brain scan can assist doctors in identifying a stroke and the type of stroke suffered.

If you or a family member has suffered as a result of any of the issues noted above, we have a dedicated and approachable team who can assist.

Where a stroke has been caused by a blood clot, a patient may be given time-critical “clot busting” medication (known as thrombolysis) to restore blood flow to the affected part of the brain. Some patients may be able to undergo an emergency procedure to remove the blood clot (known as thrombectomy) to restore blood flow to the brain.

These treatments have been shown to result in significantly improved outcomes following a stroke, but they need to be given within a specific period of time after a stroke occurs. Other treatments include aspirin and other antiplatelet medication.

We are often approached by patients who have experienced delays in being diagnosed with a stroke and delays in receiving appropriate treatment at hospital. I have a number of ongoing cases relating to such matters.

If we are able to demonstrate breach of duty and causation in stroke cases, then we look to investigate a client’s condition and prognosis and the value of their claim.

This will involve:

  • obtaining medical expert evidence on the injuries a client has suffered and what the prognosis for those injuries are
  • evidence from other experts to assist in valuing a client’s financial losses bearing in mind the long-term effects that a stroke can have in terms of the need for care and assistance, aids and equipment and medical treatment costs, etc

The potential benefits of spinal cord stimulation could in the future be the focus of investigations we carry out in stroke cases when considering prognosis and medical treatment costs, which are included as part of a client’s financial losses.

The Medical Negligence department at Hugh James is ranked in the top tier for their expert clinical negligence advice by both major legal guides – Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners.

Author bio

Gareth Beard

Senior Associate

Gareth has worked exclusively on clinical negligence claims since 2010, involving defendants in both England and Wales.

During this time he has experienced claims involving a broad range of medical conditions and complications.  Of particular interest to Gareth are claims involving nerve injuries and chronic pain conditions, orthopaedic injuries/complications, hospital acquired infections, vascular cases, general surgical cases and bowel injury cases.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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