Paralyzed Gymnast Walks After 'Frozen Spine' Treatment


The use of hypothermia for spinal cord injuries garnered public attention in 2007 however after Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett was treated with it following an injury during a game. Neurologists feel that the cooling may have prevented him from further injury and aided his ability to come back from what was effectively a quadriplegic state.

"There are different theories for why it might work. It's thought to be protective against some of the inflammation and the low blood flow that can happen with spinal cord injuries. But there need to be large trials before we can know how effective it is," Humphries adds.

There are also potential complications associated with pushing the body into hypothermia, Hecht notes, such as increased susceptibility to infection, risk of blood clots, and cardiac arrhythmia.

In cases where patients are otherwise healthy besides the acute injury, the potential benefit of cooling treatments are weighed against these potential risks. Though more research is needed to determine how much of an impact therapeutic hypothermia has on cases like Jorge's, Vanni says that Jorge's recovery "helps add evidence that this is something that needs to be looked at in a more universal arena."

More Research Fuels Chill Therapy

"This is a question not only of did he walk but how quickly he walked and how little residual injury he had," he adds.

As for Jorge, he says he feels "very, very lucky" to have had such good medical attention and such a speedy recovery.

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