'Super Glue' Saves Man From Paralysis

Doctors used the medical version of "super glue" to give an Australian man a "one in a million" recovery from a condition which had left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Chris Henkel, 34, was contemplating life in a wheelchair after he was diagnosed with the extremely rare condition, spinal dural fistula — an abnormal connection of blood vessels causing severe pressure to the spinal cord.

Although he had been able to "shuffle" into the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital emergency department, within days he had lost the use of his legs and was wheeled into surgery on a Sunday with little hope of walking again.

Radiologist Ken Mitchell, who treated Henkel, said the main aim of the surgery on June 15 was to stop progression of the paralysis to the upper body, which could have killed him.

"It's a very emotional thing to have a person walk again when they've been paralyzed," Dr. Mitchell said. "That doesn't happen a lot in medicine."

Doctors used a $2 million imaging machine to pinpoint the problem, inserted a catheter through an artery in Henkel's groin and injected medical grade super glue to block the abnormality.

"The recovery is one in a million," said Mitchell. "It's very rare to make a full recovery because the spinal cord is a very sensitive part of our body and any injury to it is basically permanent. I think he's a very lucky man."

Henkel, of the Redland City suburb of Birkdale, prefers to call it "a miracle".

He said he had experienced symptoms of the condition, which only affects about 20 people in Australia each year, for about 12 months before it was diagnosed.

Symptoms ranged from numbness to severe back pain.

"The last game of touch footy I played, I fell over five times. I thought I was getting uncoordinated but bigger things were happening," Mr. Henkel recalls.

"I just thought it was a bad back, a pinched nerve."

Mitchell said the cause of spinal dural fistula was unclear.

"Some may arise from birth. Sometimes after surgery or a minor injury they can develop but we're really not sure why they come about," he said.

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