Modern medicine focuses on the anatomical and biochemical (i.e., the physical), ignoring, until recently, the body's less-understood electromagnetic nature.
As underscored by Albert Einstein's famous E= mc2 equation, however, the physical never exists without energy, and each influences the other. Every molecule in our body emits an electromagnetic field, and because each cell - and, in turn, each organ - is an aggregation of such molecules, they too are electromagnetic.
There is no tissue in which this fact is more evident than our nervous system, which functions by routing electromagnetic impulses throughout our body via our spinal cord. Hence, attempts to fix an injured cord through physical means will be enhanced by working with and - not against - its electromagnetic nature.
Diapulse directs electromagnetic energy to a specific body area, even through clothing, casts, or bandages, via a cylindrical treatment head mounted on an adjustable bracket. The technology does not cause side effects or require patient involvement.
Because the device pulses its electromagnetic output, it emits energy for only a fraction of time, allowing any heat associated with the transferred energy to dissipate. Diapulse's electromagnetic output is often pulsed at 600 pulses per second with each pulse lasting 65 microseconds (1 second = 1million microseconds). Hence, this pulse rate corresponds to the device being off 25 times longer than it is on.
HISTORY: The Diapulse prototype was developed in the early 1930s by physician Abraham Ginsberg and physicist Arthur Milinowski, who reported their initial clinical experience and animal research with the device to the 1934 & 1940 New York Academy of Medicine. Because the technology behind the device was used to develop radar, the device's emergence as a healing modality was delayed due to World War II security concerns.
Research was resumed in the 1950s by the military's Tri-Service Research Program, which after extensive studies concluded that the device was safe and effective.
About this time, the driving force behind Diapulse shifted from Ginsburg to Dr. Jesse Ross, a biophysicist, whose impressive background includes professional associations with Einstein and being one of the founders of the prestigious Bioelectromagnetic Society and a NASA consultant. Ross created the Diapulse Corporation of America (Great Neck, NY), developing a collaboration with Remington Rand to produce the device. To further assess the device's healing potential, Ross then launched ambitious research with universities and clinicians around the world.
One famous customer was former President Harry Truman, who rented the device in 1966.
Over time, Diapulse was adopted as a treatment in various areas of medicine throughout the world; it is approved by the FDA for treatment of post-operative swelling and pain.
DIAPULSE STUDIES: Numerous studies support Diapulse's potential to treat neurologically associated problems and exert neuroprotective and -regenerative influences. After nervous-system injury, Diapulse helps to restore the membrane potential (concentration difference of charged solutes between the cell inside and outside) necessary to ensure cell survival and to enhance recovery-promoting blood flow.
BLOOD FLOW: Dr. W. Erdman (Philadelphia, 1960) demonstrated that Diapulse increases systemic blood flow without elevating pulse rate or blood pressure. This effect is most likely due to the ability of Diapulse-generated fields to induce cells to align in a pearl-chain fashion. When the device was turned off, the cells reassumed a random distribution. With such a pearl-chain alignment, blood cells can more efficiently pass through a given vascular space, like cars traveling in the same direction on parallel lanes instead of "bumper" cars.
As in all injuries, the rate of blood flow affects recovery after SCI. Specifically, the injury to the cord compromises blood flow, which, as a consequence, aggravates neurological damage. The importance of this issue was emphasized in a recent SCI conference where Dr. H. Crock (London, UK), probably the world's foremost expert on spinal cord circulation, stressed that blood flow is the primary factor that needs to be addressed after SCI (insert link). Given Diapulse's ability to enhance blood-flow, it is not surprising that studies indicate that it promotes healing after SCI.
ANIMAL STUDIES: The first scientists to focus on Diapulse's neuronal regeneration properties were Drs. D. Wilson and P. Jagadeesh (Leeds, UK, 1975). After demonstrating that the device stimulates regeneration in rats with peripheral nerve injuries (i.e., those outside of the brain and spinal cord), they examined its effects on cats whose spinal cords were half cut (hemicordotomy). Three months after hemicordotomy, compared to controls, Diapulse improved functional recovery, reduced scar formation and adhesions, increased the number of axons transversing the injury site, and promoted the integration of peripheral nerve grafts that had been inserted to bridge the lesion.
Drs. A. Raji and R. Bowden (London, UK, 1983) also demonstrated that Diapulse enhances regeneration and remyelination of rat peripheral nerves after transection.
Because surgeons are beginning to use peripheral nerve tissue to bridge spinal cord lesions in human, Diapulse's ability to accelerate regeneration in peripheral tissue also has important therapeutic implications for SCI.
Dr. Wise Young (New York, 1984) showed that Diapulse reduces calcium at the injury site in cats injured through impact, (an injury that resembles most human SCI). Because calcium causes secondary neuronal cell death, this Diapulse-induced reduction lessened neurological damage and, in turn, preserved function.
Specifically, Young reported that 1) the majority of Diapulse-treated cats were walking four months after surgery compared to none in the control group and 2) that the device was superior to treatment with the steroid methylprednisolone, now considered a post-injury treatment standard.
HUMAN STUDIES: Dr. M. Weiss, et al (Warsaw, Poland) carried out a promising SCI study in 1980. Weiss, who interestingly was funded by the U.S. Veterans Administration for developing another innovative SCI approach, arranged for acutely injured patients to be picked up by helicopter and brought to Warsaw where they were treated with Diapulse. Of the 97 treated patients, 38 had pronounced neurological improvement; of these, 28 had substantial functional gains, and 18 were discharged with only slight impairment of the extremities. Although this preliminary study lacked controls, these are impressive statistics, which, at minimum, warrant study replication. Unfortunately, because Weiss died soon after publishing these initial results, combined with post-communism social upheaval, this promising research was not continued.
Dr. W. Ellis (1987) anecdotally noted that PEMF given for pain in patients with chronic SCI resulted in sensory or motor improvement in 7 of 13 patients. Ellis hypothesized that these fields can normalise viable but dysfunctional neuronal structures.
In another posted article, a surgical procedure was discussed in which olfactory tissue was transplanted into the injury site of individuals with chronic SCI to restore function. Working with the lead surgeon Dr. C. Lima (Portugal), Ross treated two Americans with quadriplegia with Diapulse several days before and after surgery to promote neuronal regeneration.
HEAD INJURY: In large clinical trials, Dr. M. Sambasivan (India, 1993) showed that Diapulse therapy reduces cerebral edema and mortality after traumatic-brain-injury.
SCI PRESSURE SORES: In 1991, the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association gave several Diapulse devices to a nearby VA hospital to treat SCI-associated pressure sores, and, in turn, funded a double-blind study by Dr. C. A. Salzberg et al (Valhalla, NY, 1995) which showed that Diapulse-treated patients with such sores healed on average in 13 compared to 31.5 days for controls.
CONCLUSION: Compelling evidence indicates that Diapulse-generated pulsed electromagnetic fields exert neuroprotective and -regenerative influences when administered soon after SCI. Although its true SCI therapeutic potential still needs to be determined, if Diapulse represented a more familiar pharmaceutical approach, the biomedical research community would be elated given this amount of positive preliminary evidence and pushing it to the forefront for further scrutiny instead of letting it languish on the sidelines. Our neglect may have adversely affected the many of those currently living with SCI. For the sake of all those who sustain a SCI in the future, let's once and for all objectively evaluate its healing potential.