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Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) impair the brain's ability to send messages to the rest of the body. These injuries can result in paralysis, loss of feeling, chronic pain, and other serious medical problems. SCIs are estimated to affect as many as 332,000 Americans, with about 12,000 new injuries occurring each year. About 81 percent of people with these injuries are males. Learn more.

VA’s Major SCI Accomplishments:

• Developing FES systems that allow patients to move paralyzed limbs
• Demonstrating and testing a device called the SmartWheel that has led to improved wheelchair designs
• Participating in the development of BrainGate, which decodes brain signals and translates them into commands
• Demonstrating that cell transportation can enhance nerve impulse contraction in an injured spinal cord
• Developing instructional and educational materials to help Veterans who use wheelchairs for mobility perform physical activity and exercise safely

Below is a story that illustrates VA’s commitment to advancing technology and research initiatives to benefit our nation’s Veterans.

Research participants try out the ReWalk at the Bronx VA Medical Center during a visit by Lt. Gen. Thomas Travis, Surgeon General of the U.S. Air Force.

Research participants try out the ReWalk at the Bronx VA Medical Center during a visit by Lt. Gen. Thomas Travis, Surgeon General of the U.S. Air Force. (Photo by Lynne Kantor)

Robotic exoskeleton, now FDA-approved, continues to be studied at Bronx VA

For people who have lost the use of their legs, "don't just go for a ride, go for a walk," would seem at best an empty promise, at worst a cruel taunt. However, a new product called ReWalk makes that pledge to its users. As a number of New York City-area Veterans have recently learned, ReWalk delivers.

ReWalk is an exoskeleton suit, worn outside a person's clothes, providing powered hip and knee motion to enable those with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) to stand upright and walk. Dr. Amit Goffer, an Israeli biomedical engineer who is himself quadriplegic, invented it.

The system integrates a wearable brace support, a computer-based control system, and a tilt sensor. It allows patients who cannot move their legs by themselves to stand and walk independently with crutches, mimicking a natural gait. Read more...