© Ara Hacobian
Heinz Redl, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Experimental and Clinical Traumatology, Vienna, Austria

The effect of shockwave treatment on the functional, morphological and molecular level in sub-acute and chronic phases of traumatic spinal cord injury

Funded in: 2017, 2018, 2019

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Problem: Secondary damage contributes to additional damage and loss of functions

Target: Modulating the inflammatory process after SCI by shockwave therapy

Goal: Reduction of tissue loss and improvement functional recovery


One of the clinically most relevant time points for therapeutic intervention is believed to be the sub-acute phase after spinal cord injury (SCI). In this phase secondary processes of damage, such as inflammation and scar formation, take place. These destructive events contribute to a large part to loss of function after spinal cord injury.

Shockwaves (ESWT) are acoustic pressure waves that develop during sudden release of energy. Basic research, as well as case studies, have shown that extra corporeal shock wave therapy improves regeneration and modulates inflammatory processes in different tissues, including neuronal tissues such as peripheral nerves. However, the underlying mechanisms of this non invasive treatment option are not yet fully understood.

To date, apart from rehabilitation, treatment options for patients suffering from SCI are very limited.

We hypothesize that ESWT leads to reduction of scar tissue formation and spinal cyst size, when applied in the sub-acute and chronic phases after SCI. We think that investigating the underlying mechanisms of ESWT is crucial for support of clinical studies.

In our study, we use an experimental spinal cord injury model in rats. The animals will be treated with ESWT at a sub-acute and chronic time point after injury and improvement in mobility will be assessed using different tests. The effects and underlying mechanisms of ESWT will also be analysed using highly sensitive tools to investigate changes on a cellular and subcellular level.

This therapeutic approach could offer a new and patient friendly treatment option for patients suffering from a sub-acute or chronic spinal cord injury. Considering recent findings on the effects of ESWT in other fields, our team is highly optimistic to contribute valuable data adding to the general knowledge on treating patients suffering from spinal cord injury in a safe and effective way.