Pioneering Surgical Solutions for SCI
Lt Col David Baxter witnessed the devastation of spinal injury in the army. He is now helping develop revolutionary treatments for paralysis.
Did you always want to be a scientist, what did you want to do if not?
I have always been curious, and driven by a desire to change things for the better. This led me into medicine.
During my early years in the Army on tours in Afghanistan, I saw first-hand the devastating effects of brain and spine injury. These experiences have motivated me to further my knowledge on how we can repair and ultimately cure neurological injury.
How did you progress into your current position?
I am a military neurosurgeon. I studied Medicine at the University of Manchester, following which I joined the Army and completed officer training.
After medical house officer years and time on tour with the military, I began the long-haul of specialist neurosurgical training in London, during which time I also completed a PhD in Neuroscience at UCL.
Since finishing neurosurgical training, I have completed specialist trauma and spinal fellowships, leading to my current role as a Complex Spine Consultant at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.
Can you tell us simply about your area of research?
I am the Surgical Lead for the London Spinal Cord Injuries Group. We are using spinal cord stimulation to improve function following spinal cord injury (SCI), in particular aspects of autonomic function like bladder and bowel function.
How can this help someone with SCI?
People living with SCI suffer from debilitating issues with bladder and bowel function. This is an area of significant concern for the SCI community.
In the short-term, we hope our research will lead to treatments that can improve continence, reducing the need for catheterisation and reducing UTI infection rates, as well as reducing daily toileting time and significantly improving quality of life for patients living with SCI.
What are the next steps for your research?
We are starting a trial over the next six months to see how to use epidural spinal cord stimulation to restore bladder and bowel function following SCI.
This research will also shed more light on the underlying mechanisms of bowel function and changes to the gut microbiome following SCI.
David is one of the first neurosurgeons in the UK to successfully implant a spinal stimulation device. He is also a Trustee for Spinal Research and recently completed a marathon swimming challenge around the Isle of Wight to raise funds for the charity.