Medtronic Device Helps Paralyzed Patients Walk Again in Clinical Studies

Medtronic_Editorial_Ken WolterKen Wolter /

A commercially-available medical device developed by Medtronic is helping paralyzed patients walk again.

The device, which stimulates the spinal cord through electrical pulses, has been successful in helping some individuals who lost the ability to walk through injuries to their spine, regain the ability to walk in a limited fashion. Three of four patients treated at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center with the device have regained some mobility. They are able to walk again with the assistance of the implanted device and a walker. An additional study conducted by the Mayo Institute documented the results of a single individual who had the device implanted. He was able to stand independently and walk 102 meters with a walker, Forbes reported this morning.

Following the patient’s positive experiences, the studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and in Nature Medicine.

Kendall Lee, the co-principal investigator from the Mayo Clinic, said the study has shown that the “networks of neurons below a spinal cord injury still can function after paralysis.” Kristin Zhao, also a co-principal investigator, said the next challenge is fully understanding how this happened, why it happened and which patients will best respond to the device.

As Forbes touts the patient successes in the spinal implant trial. Medtronic this morning announced the commercial launch of a new spinal cord treatment. The company launched the Infinity Occipitocervical-Upper Thoracic (OCT) System that is designed to simplify posterior cervical spine surgery. The Infinity OCT System is a “complete procedural solution that integrates navigation and biologics with Medtronic's comprehensive devices and instrumentation to create efficiency in fusion procedure workflows for the upper back and neck,” the company said.

The new system is used to immobilize and stabilize the spine while it fuses. Medtronic said. There are innovative components including a multi-axial screw with 60 degrees of angulation in any direction, a set screw (locking cap) with a quick-start thread to minimize cross threading, and 3.0mm and 5.5mm diameter screws for expanded patient demographics and clinical applications, according to company data.

When paired with other Medtronic devices, the O-arm Imaging System and StealthStation Navigation System, Medtronic said the Infinity OCT System “provides a fully-enabled procedural solution designed to bring efficiency and simplicity to even the most complex posterior cervical procedures.”

Doug King, the president of Medtronic’s spine division, said the company has spent the past 35 years advancing new technologies aimed at improving spinal patient outcomes.

“We engineered every component of the Infinity OCT System to perform efficiently during the most complex spine procedures, as well as to integrate seamlessly with our market-leading imaging and navigation technologies,” King said in a statement.

The Infinity OCT System is indicated for certain conditions including degenerative disc disease, instability or deformity, tumors, and traumatic spinal fractures or traumatic dislocations. Spine trauma can sometimes result in a spinal cord injury.

Medtronic anticipates the global commercial availability of the new system in the later part of 2018 and in 2019.

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