Spinal Cord Injury – Conditions – For Patients …

Posted: May 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Spinal Cord Injury

For more information, please visit our Integrated Spine Care site

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

Acute spinal cord injury (SCI) is due to a traumatic injury that can either result in a bruise (also called a contusion), a partial tear, or a complete tear (called a transection) in the spinal cord. About 250,000 to 400,000 individuals in the US have a spinal cord injury. About 60 percent of these cases are 30 years old or younger.

The annual incidence of spinal cord injury in the U.S. is 40 cases per million, or 12,000 new cases each year. The number of people in the U.S. in 2008 living with a spinal cord injury is approximately 259,000, with a range of 229,000 to 306,000.

SCI results in a decreased or absence of movement, sensation, and body organ function below the level of the injury. The most common sites of injury are the cervical and thoracic areas. SCI is a common cause of permanent disability and death in children and adults.

The spine consists of 33 vertebrae, including the following:

* By adulthood, the 5 sacral vertebrae fuse to form one bone, and the 4 coccygeal vertebrae fuse to form one bone.)

These vertebrae function to stabilize the spine and protect the spinal cord. In general, the higher in the spinal column the injury occurs, the more dysfunction a person will have.

Injury to the vertebrae does not always mean the spinal cord has been damaged. Likewise, damage to the spinal cord itself can occur without fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae.

There are many causes of SCI. The more common injuries occur when the area of the spine or neck is bent or compressed, as in the following:

Penetrating injuries that pierce the cord, such as gunshots and stab wounds may also cause damage.

Symptoms vary depending on the severity and location of the SCI. At first, the patient may experience spinal shock, which causes loss of feeling, muscle movement, and reflexes below the level of injury. Spinal shock usually lasts from several hours to several weeks. As the period of shock subsides, other symptoms appear, depending on the location of the injury.

Generally, the higher up the level of the injury to the spinal cord, the more severe the symptoms. For example, an injury at C2 or C3 (the second and third vertebrae in the spinal column), affects the respiratory muscles and the ability to breathe. A lower injury, in the lumbar vertebrae, may affect nerve and muscle control to the bladder, bowel, and legs.

The following are the most common symptoms of acute spinal cord injuries. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of SCI may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

The following chart is a comparison of the specific level of SCI and the resulting rehabilitation potential. This chart is a guide, with general information only; impairments and rehabilitation potential can vary depending on the type and severity of SCI. Always consult your physician for more specific information based on your individual medical condition and injury.

Rehabilitation of the patient with a SCI begins during the acute treatment phase. As the patient's condition improves, a more extensive rehabilitation program is often begun.

The success of rehabilitation depends on many variables, including the following:

It is important to focus on maximizing the patient's capabilities at home and in the community. Positive reinforcement helps recovery by improving self-esteem and promoting independence.

The goal of SCI rehabilitation is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life - physically, emotionally, and socially.

Areas covered in spinal cord injury rehabilitation programs may include:

The spinal cord injury rehabilitation team revolves around the patient and family and helps set short-and long-term treatment goals for recovery. Many skilled professionals are part of the spinal cord injury rehabilitation team, including any/all of the following:

There are a variety of spinal cord injury treatment programs, including the following:

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Spinal Cord Injury - Conditions - For Patients ...

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