A new treatment for acute spinal cord injury

In Australia we are part of an international study to test the power of a drug called riluzole to improve function after acute spinal cord injury. I am the principal investigator for the Australian hospitals taking part and I can watch progress as we enrole people into the study, which now stands at 140 worldwide, but we hope to reach 350.

So, it is with mixed emotions that I see a man admitted and treated this weekend for a spinal cord injury suffered in a rugby game. This is devastating for him and his loved ones and I dearly hope that he makes a recovery, perhaps helped by riluzole. Our hope is that research of this kind will lead to better outcomes for people like this man, because at present we don’t have much we can do apart from providing supportive care and rehabilitation. Even surgery is very limited in its benefits.

This study with riluzole could really change the way we treat spinal cord injury and pave the way for a whole new way to tackle this devastating problem. However, progress is slow and even with 24 hospitals contributing here and in north America, we will not finish for another 3 or 4 years. We have applied for additional grant money to extend the project to New Zealand, which could boost our study a lot because of the very efficient way the Kiwi’s bring injured patients straight to one of their two specialist spinal hospitals.

The riluzole trial is a genuine effort to find a better way to treat spinal cord injury involving scientists and doctors in Canada, USA and Australia. The details of the study are available at the following link.


Dr Ralph Stanford

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