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How are spinal injuries treated?

People who have suffered a spinal injury require immediate treatment to prevent further damage to the spinal cord. At the scene of the accident medical personnel should immobilize the person's head, neck, and back and administer steroid medications to control swelling. Immediate surgery may be necessary to evaluate the state of the spinal cord, stabilize fractured vertebrae, release pressure from the injured area, and treat injuries to other parts of the body.

There is no way to regenerate nerve tissue that has been damaged, but ongoing treatment and rehabilitation may allow some people with spinal trauma to regain some feeling and function. Depending on the severity of the injury, people may require long-term interventions such as mechanical ventilation to help them breath, a catheter to drain the bladder, or a feeding tube to provide extra nutrition and calories.

Although there are new treatments being tried in clinical trials, corticosteroids such as dexamethasone or methylprednisolone are usually given to lessen the chance of nerve cell damage. Steroids are particularly effective if given to patients within the first eight hours after the injury.

In addition, a major improvement in emergency treatment for those with spinal cord injuries, including keeping the person immobilized immediately after the injury, has greatly improved the prognosis for many. Excellence in trauma care, along with the latest therapies used by Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and in the intensive care unit, has reduced the chances of complete damage to the spinal cord and improved outcome for many.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.