Spinal Injury

Once in a while the opportunity arises to study something that could make a really important difference. People with spinal injury lose control of pelvic function but it is possible to regain a degree of autonomy by stimulating the nerves going to the pelvic organs. Wires are implanted onto the sacral anterior nerve roots and attached to a box inserted under the skin of the chest wall. Stimulation is effected by induction using an external signal. By applying different programmes of stimulation, patients could induce micturition, defaecation and penile erection. Some were able to father their own children ‘naturally’. We had the privilege to documenting the disturbances in anorectal function in patients with spinal injury and testing the prototypes.

  1. MacDonagh, R., Sun, W.M., Smallwood, R.H., Read, N.W. (1990) Control of defecation in patients with spinal injuries by stimulation of sacral anterior nerve roots. Brit. Med. J. 300: 1494-1497.
  2. Sun, W.M., Read, N.W. (1991) Reflex anal dilatation: effect of parting the buttocks on anal function in normal subjects and patients with anorectal and spinal disease. Gut 32: 670-673.
  3. MacDonagh, R., Sun, W.M., Thomas D.G, Smallwood, R., Read, N.W. (1992) Anorectal function in patients with complete supraconal spinal cord lesions. Gut 33: 1532-1538.
  4. Sun, W.M., Mac Donagh, R., Forster, D., Thomas, D.G., Smallwood, R., Read, N.W. (1995). Anorectal function in patients with complete spinal transection before and after sacral posterior rhizotomy. Gastroenterology. 108:990-998.