13 young adults with tetraplegia are able to feed themselves, hold a drink, brush their teeth, and write as a result of a novel surgical technique which connects functioning nerves with injured nerves to restore power in paralyzed muscles. Nerve transfer surgery has enabled 13 young adults with complete paralysis to regain movement and function in their elbows and hands, according to the largest case series of this technique in people with tetraplegia (paralysis of both the upper and lower limbs), published in The Lancet.
During the surgery, Australian surgeons attached functioning nerves above the spinal injury to paralyzed nerves below the injury. Two years after surgery, and following intensive physical therapy, participants were able to reach their arm out in front of them and open their hand to pick up and manipulate objects. Restoring elbow extension improved their ability to propel their wheelchair and to transfer into bed or a car.
They can now perform everyday tasks independently such as feeding themselves, brushing teeth and hair, putting on make-up, writing, handling money and credit cards, and using tools and electronic devices.