New oxygen therapy 'can aid mobility in spine injury patients'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

Researchers in the US have discovered a promising new treatment approach to help people with spine injuries walk better.

A team from Emory University in Atlanta have conducted a study involving 19 people with spine injuries to assess the benefits of the new method, which sees patients exposed to short periods of breathing low oxygen levels, a process known as hypoxia.

“US scientists have devised an oxygen-based therapy approach that could help people with spinal cord injuries walk better.“

Participants breathed through a mask for about 40 minutes a day for five days, receiving 90-second periods of low oxygen levels followed by 60 seconds of normal oxygen levels. It was found that those receiving the hypoxia treatment increased their speed on a test of walking ten metres, walking an average of 3.8 seconds faster.

Meanwhile, in a test of how far patients could walk in six minutes by an average of 100 metres, a 250 percent improvement was seen among the hypoxia group.

Dr Randy Trumbower of Emory University said: "Usually a person affected by this type of spinal injury seldom recovers the ability to walk normally. Our research proposes a promising new way for the spinal cord to make the connections needed to walk better."

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