Other articles posted on this website discuss how
electromagnetic energy can treat various ailments relevant to physical
disability. This article specifically discusses the use of Diapulse,
a device that directs a pulsed-electromagnetic field (PEMF) to an area of
injury. Animal and human studies indicate that this treatment soon after
spinal cord injury (SCI) protects neurons, promotes regeneration, and
minimizes lost function.
therapy has been also proven to reduce cerebral edema and mortality after
traumatic head injury and accelerate the healing of disability-associated
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
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.
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
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.
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; in this country, it is
approved by the FDA for treatment of post-operative swelling and pain.
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.
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”
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.
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,
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.
SCI 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 normalize viable but dysfunctional
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.
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. (See
testimonial letter below)
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.
James Kelly is a SCI research writer and “pro-cures”
advocate from Granbury, TX.
Diapulse Corporation of can be reached at 321 East
Shore Road, Great Neck 11023. Phone 516-466-3030.
Adapted from “Paraplegia News” June 2003 (For