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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Surgical hope for spinal injuries
An x-ray showing the screws which are stabilising Mr Boardman's spine
An electric current passes through electrodes on Mr Boardman's spine
A Wakefield man has become the first patient in Britain, and only the second in the world, to undergo ground breaking surgery for a spinal injury.

Wayne Boardman, 29, was told he had been left permanently paralysed from the waist down by a motorbike accident.

But last week doctors at Hull Royal Infirmary implanted a small pacemaker-like device into his side to stimulate nerve growth in his spinal chord.

If successful, the operation could help transform paralysed patients' lives.

The operation was carried out by consultant neurosurgeon David O'Brien.

As well as screws to stabilise Mr Boardman's spine, two electrodes have been placed either side of the spine which are connected to the pacemaker-like device.

This enables an electric current to pass directly to Mr Boardman's spine to stimulate nerve recognition.

The operation has primarily been a trial to test the safety of the technique and the device.

Wayne Boardman and consultant neurosurgeon David O'Brien
Mr O'Brien said the device seemed to be working well so far

According to the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Mr Boardman is the first person in the UK and only the second in the world to be fitted with the device.

An external monitor has already showed the device is working well but Mr O'Brien said it was too early to tell how successful it would be.

"Only time will tell but we're hopeful there will be some improvement," he said.

Five more patients will need to have the same procedure before it can be cleared for wider use, but Mr Boardman remains optimistic about its results.

"I can feel pulsing in my feet like a pulsing in my big toes occasionally and sensations that are exaggerated that weren't there before," he said.

"Everything's about positive thinking. I will walk again and the more things that make me feel more confident that I'll walk again the better it is for me."

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