WESTWOOD (KABC) -- Hinesh Patel broke his neck and damaged his spine when he fell off a balcony last year.
The 29-year-old M.D. and Ph.D. student has traveled the world and lived a very active lifestyle. He's starting to regain mobility, but so far, not the ability to urinate without a catheter.
"You really have to think about that because if you don't manage it well, then you can also get worse health problems," said Patel.
University of California, Los Angeles' Dr. Daniel Lu is running his second study using a magnet to stimulate the part of the spinal cord that controls bladder function.
"The injury, oftentimes, is not a complete injury. There are residual pathways still connected past the injury point," said Lu.
In the first study, five men got magnetic stimulation for 15 minutes a week. After four months, two stopped using a catheter completely, two had substantial improvement, and one had moderate improvement.
"It modifies the signal in such a way that it become functional, that the neurons and circuits at the spinal cord level can interpret that as a viable signal," said Lu.
Patel is in Lu's second trial. He's gone in for 15 minutes twice a week for four months. It's a blinded study, so he doesn't know if he's actually getting treatment but believes he's regaining sensation.
"It just means more control over your life in that regard," said Patel.
The magnetic stimulation device is FDA approved but is experimental for this particular use.
In the second study of 15 men and women, Lu is hoping to find out why the magnets work better on some people than others and what doses provide the best and longest-lasting results.
In the first trial, the positive effects started degrading a few weeks after treatment stopped.
UCLA doctor's magnet study helping patients with bladder injuries
CIRCLE OF HEALTH