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Brainstem Injury

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    Brainstem Injury

    A person recently wrote to me saying that he had a brainstem stroke about a year and half ago. He now has residue spasticity, ataxia, and tremor on his right side, worse in his arm than in his legs. He asked whether and what stem cell therapies may be beneficial for his condition. He has been taking drugs to prevent the tremor without success.

    I thought that my answer to him might be of interest to others and therefore post it here.

    I am not sure that stem cells can do anything for your condition. Your brainstem stroke probably damaged brainstem neurons that control muscle tone and body posture, mostly affecting your right arm and your leg to a lesser extent. You are blaming the solutions that your body has devised to solve your loss of motor control. The ataxia represents inadequate motor control. The spasticity result from loss of descending inhibition of your spinal reflex circuits. Tremor are a manifestation of the systems overcompensation to allow you to move and control your arm and legs. These are plastic changes of your nervous system that allows you to move your limbs, albeit not as well as you would like.

    In my opinion, instead of trying to eliminate the ataxia, tremor, and spasticity, you should be trying to use them to your advantage to move and control your movements. You should doing intensive repetitive motor training rather than looking for drugs or cells to eliminate the symptoms of your loss of motor control. For example, your nervous system is like that of a baby, learning to use his hands and feet for the first time. You need to use them as much as possible. For example, I assume that you can type. You should buy a computer typing game and practice typing bimanually as fast as you can. Do you play a guitar or some other musical instrument? Play as many hours a day as you can. Walk at least a mile a day. Swim daily. Use your right arm and legs at least 6 hours a day.

    That is how I would try to get recovery from a brainstem stroke. Do it by engaging in intensive repetitive exercise and getting your brain's natural plasticity to find ways to compensate for loss of neurons damaged by the stroke. While stem cells can do much and are important for restoring function, they are not omnipotent. They cannot do everything and don't know how to do everything. Avoid doctors making false and unsubstantiated claims that their stem cells can cure stroke. There is no credible data and no stem cell therapy has been shown to restore function yet in human. I would not trust any doctor who claims that he/she has a stem cell therapy that does so and charge you for the therapy. Avoid such people.

    Hi Wise,

    Great answer. Thank you. My Dad suffered a cervicomedullary junction stroke (brainstem) nearly two years ago that left him quadriplegic and vent dependent (working on that with good results). He has little to no effective movement, although after a recent stay in rehab he had a bit of return on contractions of his left bicep. He has occasional spastic movement more noticeable in his left leg or in the morning with waking (full 'stretch' like activity though not in his control) . We do range of motion twice a day and are considering trying Neuromove (?) and FES, not that we're expecting much but even for the health benefits. Any thoughts on this or any other suggestions in light of the intensive repetitive exercise? Of course we'd love the magic stem cell or other treatment if it even gave him a hint of some movement back but so be it.


      In January of 2010 I had a brain stem stroke of the madulla. My surgeon who did the surgery ordered up the MRI, got the report, and did nothing. In September of 2009 I had brainstem surgery to remove an AVM in the ponds. I am quite aware that this is a very delicate and dangerous area. A midline occipital approach was used because of all the blood. They split my vermis and get to the AVM. Now I cannot walk, I have nystagmus and Desmetria which I traced back to the splitting of the vermis. I also have blood and scar tissue product at that site. They also let the AVM bleed for six months and do a lot of cranial nerve damage, and hospitalized me 10 times. I figured that went down well with the Medicare system. This was supposed to be a one-time visit. Dr. Spetzler at the Barrow Institute wanted to go in on the left lateral approach, but we could not get the insurance to approve it.I want to know if there are any stem cell trials available out there for the brain. Thank you.
      Last edited by ebraski; 30 Nov 2012, 6:23 PM.
      Ed B
      South New Jersey


        they recover at a low percentage, in most patients with this they lose their capabilities


          i a girl is south ga got hit by a train in her driveway brainstem was really bad said her brain got loose and shook. she went to shepards 2016 i think well long long recoverey graduated high school last year she was a senior she rides has a saddle that helps her drives limited not bad to normal but really close mental almost 100 % phycial maybe 90 her parents are amazing the outpouring of fund rasiers from the horse show and riodeo family have been . jc is 1 of the lucky ones