The realities of Spinal Cord Injury are far more complex than just not walking. When someone becomes paralysed, they are unable to coordinate the complex signals needed up and down the spinal cord to undertake urination. The bladder becomes paralysed and individuals with SCI are often unable to tell when they need to urinate and almost all paralysed people are unable to go to the bathroom without the use of catheters, other pieces of equipment and extensive use of pharmaceuticals to assist with bladder spasms.
Any form of catheterisation causes significant health problems for paralysed individuals as it enables the introduction of microscopic bacteria directly into the bladder, resulting in complex urinary tract infections (UTIs). In paralysed individuals, UTIs cause a significant increase in painful spasms and spasticity all over the body but also in the bladder itself, causing leakage of urine. UTIs are often accompanied by fever, chills and debilitating fatigue, all of which severely impact the paralysed individual’s ability to lead an independent and fulfilling life. Untreated, UTIs can lead to further medical complications, hospitalisation and even death caused by sepsis.
Paralysed people have no other available alternative methods to urinate and therefore must use catheters despite their inherent risks. The best care in the world will not prevent bacterial colonisation of the paralysed bladder; care can only mask the symptoms. To deal with the problem, we need cure.
Thankfully, those in the field of regenerative medicine are moving towards a solution. This week saw the publication of an article by Dr Jerry Silver and team in the Journal of Neuroscience entitled ‘”Nerve Regeneration Restores Supraspinal Control of Bladder Function after Complete Spinal Cord Injury”. Although still in early, animal stages this is great news for those relying on catheters.
Hope is here, and change is on the horizon!