Epidural Spinal Stimulation to Improve Bladder, Bowel, and Sexual Function in Individuals With Spinal Cord Injuries: A Framework for Clinical Research
While some recent studies that apply epidural spinal cord stimulation (SCS) have demonstrated a breakthrough in improvement of the health and quality of the life of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI), the numbers of people who have received SCS are small. This is in sharp contrast to the thousands of persons worldwide living with SCI who have no practical recourse or hope of recovery of lost functions. Thus, the vision is to understand the full potential of this new intervention and to determine if it is safe and effective in a larger cohort, and if it is scalable so that it can be made available to all those who might benefit. To achieve this vision, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering called for and organized a consortium of multiple stakeholder groups: foundations addressing paralysis, federal and public agencies, industrial partners, academicians, and researchers, all interested in the same goal. Based on input from consortium participants, we have reasoned that a first step is to define a scalable SCS approach that is effective in restoring lost autonomic physiology, specifically bladder, bowel, and sexual function. These functions are most critical for improving the quality of life of persons living with SCI. This report outlines a framework for conducting the research needed to define such an effective SCS procedure that might seek Food and Drug Administration approval and be implemented at the population level.
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