Spinal Cord Injury

RESEARCH CENTRE

THERAPEUTIC ACUTE INTERMITTENT HYPOXIA TO RESTORE VOLUNTARY FUNCTION AFTER SPINAL CORD INJURY

Therapeutic acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) is a cutting-edge treatment that has the potential to restore function to muscles paralysed due to a spinal cor injury by changing the way the brain and spinal cord connect.

The project recently received $1.5 million to advance the effectiveness of AIH, which may help people to improve their breathing and recover movement after a spinal cord injury.

Led by NeuRA’s Senior Principal Research Scientist, Professor Jane Butler, it’s aimed to identify the best way to apply this treatment clinically in a targeted and tailored manner for people who have chronic and acute spinal cord injuries to improve their quality of life.

Professor Butler will study how this therapy affects people with a spinal cord injury to optimise treatment and better predict those who may benefit most from it.

SPINAL CORD INJURY TEAM

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Abdominal muscle stimulation to improve bowel function in spinal cord injury

Bowel complications, resulting from impaired bowel function, are common for people living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). As a result, people with a SCI have high rates of bowel related illness, even compared with those with other neurological disorders. This includes high rates of abdominal pain, constipation, faecal incontinence and bloating. These problems lower the quality of life of people with a SCI and place a financial burden on the health system. A treatment that improves bowel function for people with a SCI should reduce illness, improve quality of life and lead to a large cost saving for health care providers. Bowel problems have traditionally been managed with manual and pharmacological interventions, such as digital rectal stimulation, enemas, and suppositories. These solutions are usually only partially effective, highlighting the need for improved interventions. The abdominal muscles are one of the major muscle groups used during defecation. Training the abdominal muscles should improve bowel function by increasing abdominal pressure. During our previous Abdominal FES research with people with a SCI, we observed that Abdominal FES appeared to lead to more consistent and effective bowel motion. However, this evidence remains anecdotal. As such, we are going to undertake a large randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of Abdominal FES to improve the bowel function of people with a SCI. This study will make use of a novel measurement system (SmartPill, Medtronic) that can be swallowed to measure whole gut and colonic transit time. We will also assess whether Abdominal FES can change constipation-related quality of life and the use of laxatives and manual procedures, as well as the frequency of defecation and the time taken. A positive outcome from this study is likely to lead to the rapid clinical translation of this technology for people living with a SCI.
PROJECT