Four paralysed men have been able to move their legs voluntarily after electrical stimulation was applied to their spinal cords through the use of an implant, US researchers have reported.

The four men were able to flex their toes, ankles and knees, but could not walk independently. Though this technological advancement has only been successful on a few patients, experts say that it could mark a fundamental change in the treatment of paralysis patients.

People with spinal cord injuries can lose all movement and sensation below the injury and a team of researchers, from the University of Louisville and the University of California, have been pioneering electrical stimulation of affected areas.

Imogen Wetton, a serious injury solicitor at Thompsons, said: “While this ground-breaking technology does not fully repair spinal cord functions, it is undoubtedly a major breakthrough for those affected by spinal cord injury.

“The technology has only been trialled on four people so there is still a long way to go until this type of procedure would be more widely available, but the implications of this study are, nonetheless, exciting.

“Through our work with victims of serious injury, both securing compensation for injuries and helping them to find the best possible rehabilitation programmes, we see first-hand the devastating effect that paralysis can have on a person’s life. We keep a close eye on medical advancements that may be able to help our clients in their recovery and will be interested to see how this latest development unfolds.”