Spinal Injuries

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. SCI is more common in men and young adults.

There are about 12,000 new cases of SCI each year. The number of people in the U.S. in 2008 living with a spinal cord injury was approximately 259,000.

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.

What are the types of SCI?

 

SCI can be divided into two main types of injury:

 

  • Complete injury. Complete injury means that there is no function below the level of the injury--either sensation and movement--and both sides of the body are equally affected. Complete injuries can occur at any level of the spinal cord.

 

  • Incomplete injury. Incomplete injury means that there is some function below the level of the injury--movement in one limb more than the other, feeling in parts of the body, or more function on one side of the body than the other. Incomplete injuries can occur at any level of the spinal cord.

Treatments

Spinal cord injury rehabilitation

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:

  • Level and severity of the SCI
  • Type and degree of resulting impairments and disabilities
  • Overall health of the patient
  • Family support

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.

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Treatments for Spinal Injuries

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Symptoms and Screenings for Spinal Injuries

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Causes and Preventions for Spinal Injuries

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Education and Resources for Spinal Injuries

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Support groups for Spinal Injuries

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Learn More about Spinal Injuries

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