Spinal cord injury – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: May 19, 2015 at 11:42 pm

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is an injury to the spinal cord resulting in a change, either temporary or permanent, in the cord's normal motor, sensory, or autonomic function.[1] Common causes of damage are trauma (car accident, gunshot, falls, sports injuries, etc.) or disease (transverse myelitis, polio, spina bifida, Friedreich's ataxia, etc.). The spinal cord does not have to be severed in order for a loss of function to occur. Depending on where the spinal cord and nerve roots are damaged, the symptoms can vary widely, from pain to paralysis to incontinence.[2][3] Spinal cord injuries are described at various levels of "incomplete", which can vary from having no effect on the patient to a "complete" injury which means a total loss of function.

Treatment of spinal cord injuries starts with restraining the spine and controlling inflammation to prevent further damage. The actual treatment can vary widely depending on the location and extent of the injury. In many cases, spinal cord injuries require substantial physical therapy and rehabilitation, especially if the patient's injury interferes with activities of daily life.

Research into treatments for spinal cord injuries includes controlled hypothermia and stem cells, though many treatments have not been studied thoroughly and very little new research has been implemented in standard care.

The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) first published an international classification of spinal cord injury in 1982, called the International Standards for Neurological and Functional Classification of Spinal Cord Injury. Now in its sixth edition, the International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI) is still widely used to document sensory and motor impairments following SCI.[4] It is based on neurological responses, touch and pinprick sensations tested in each dermatome, and strength of the muscles that control ten key motions on both sides of the body, including hip flexion (L2), shoulder shrug (C4), elbow flexion (C5), wrist extension (C6), and elbow extension (C7).[5] Traumatic spinal cord injury is classified into five categories on the ASIA Impairment Scale:

Dimitrijevic[6] proposed a further class, the so-called discomplete lesion, which is clinically complete but is accompanied by neurophysiological evidence of residual brain influence on spinal cord function below the lesion.[7]

Signs recorded by a clinician and symptoms experienced by a patient will vary depending on where the spine is injured and the extent of the injury. These are all determined by the area of the body that the injured area of the spine innervates. A section of skin innervated through a specific part of the spine is called a dermatome, and spinal injury can cause pain, numbness, or a loss of sensation in the relevant areas. A group of muscles innervated through a specific part of the spine is called a myotome, and injury to the spine can cause problems with voluntary motor control. The muscles may contract uncontrollably, become weak, or be completely paralysed. The loss of muscle function can have additional effects if the muscle is not used, including atrophy of the muscle and bone degeneration.

A severe injury may also cause problems in parts of the spine below the injured area. In a "complete" spinal injury, all functions below the injured area are lost. An "incomplete" spinal cord injury involves preservation of motor or sensory function below the level of injury in the spinal cord.[8] If the patient has the ability to contract the anal sphincter voluntarily or to feel a pinprick or touch around the anus, the injury is considered to be incomplete. The nerves in this area are connected to the very lowest region of the spine, the sacral region, and retaining sensation and function in these parts of the body indicates that the spinal cord is only partially damaged. This includes a phenomenon known as sacral sparing which involves the preservation of cutaneous sensation in the sacral dermatomes, even though sensation is impaired in the thoracic and lumbar dermatomes below the level of the lesion.[9] Sacral sparing may also include the preservation of motor function (voluntary external anal sphincter contraction) in the lowest sacral segments.[8] Sacral sparing has been attributed to the fact that the sacral spinal pathways are not as likely as the other spinal pathways to become compressed after injury.[9] The sparing of the sacral spinal pathways can be attributed to the lamination of fibers within the spinal cord.[9]

A complete injury frequently means that the patient has little hope of functional recovery.[10] The relative incidence of incomplete injuries compared to complete spinal cord injury has improved over the past half century, due mainly to the emphasis on faster and better initial care and stabilization of spinal cord injury patients.[11] Most patients with incomplete injuries recover at least some function.[10]

Determining the exact "level" of injury is critical in making accurate predictions about the specific parts of the body that may be affected by paralysis and loss of function. The level is assigned according to the location of the injury by the vertebra of the spinal column closest to the injury on the spinal cord.

Cervical (neck) injuries usually result in full or partial tetraplegia (Quadriplegia). However, depending on the specific location and severity of trauma, limited function may be retained.

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Spinal cord injury - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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