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Health Spotlight: Neurotechnology helping stroke patients regain mobility

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Every year in the United States, almost 800,000 people will suffer a stroke, which is 1 person every 40 seconds. And every year, 140,000 people will die from a stroke.

While recovery is possible, many will live with a serious disability caused by the stroke, including lasting problems with mobility in their arms, hands, and legs. Researchers are now using neurotechnology to instantly give patients lost mobility back.

Heather Rendulic was 22 years old when she had a series of 5 strokes. The fifth and final stroke was massive, leaving the left side of her body paralyzed.

She was unable to use her left arm and hand, until she became the first person to enroll in a study at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The study used electricity to reconnect her brain to the nerves in her arm.

By implanting two thin neuro electrodes on top of the spinal cord, neurosurgeons reconnected the signals, which allowed the brain to communicate to her arm once again.

Within minutes, Heather’s brain found ways to send impulses to her arm muscles. She says even at night when the device was turned off, her mobility continued to improve.

The trial at UPMC lasted for four weeks. At the end of the trial, Rendulic’s implant was removed, and she says she will be the first in line to get the implant once it is FDA-approved.

This type of technology is already FDA-approved to treat chronic pain. The next step in the research is to make it a device that won’t have to be removed.

The team at UPMC is hoping that FDA-approval will make this the first treatment to effectively treat paralysis for people years after having a stroke.

Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network. This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV.