Advertisement

What are the immediate treatments for spinal cord Injury?

Immediate treatments include immobilization to prevent further injury. Surgery may be considered to remove bone fragments or remove pressure on the injured spine. The extent of permanent injury may not be evident at the time of injury. Other treatments are dependent upon the level of injury. For example, if there is a thoracic (chest) spinal cord injury, respiratory support and treatment of spinal shock are part of the treatment.

The outcome of any injury to the spinal cord depends upon the number of axons that survive: the higher the number of normally functioning axons, the less the amount of disability. Consequently, the most important consideration when moving people to a hospital or trauma center is preventing further injury to the spine and spinal cord.

Spinal cord injury is not always obvious. Any injury that involves the head (especially with trauma to the front of the face), pelvic fractures, penetrating injuries in the area of the spine, or injuries that result from falling from heights should be suspect for spinal cord damage.

Until imaging of the spine is performed at an emergency or trauma center, people who might have spinal cord injury should be cared for as if any significant movement of the spine could cause further damage. They are usually transported in a recumbent (lying down) position, with a rigid collar and backboard immobilizing the spine.

Respiratory complications are often an indication of the severity of spinal cord injury. About one third of those with injury to the neck area will need help with breathing and require respiratory support through intubation, which involves inserting a tube connected to an oxygen tank through the nose or throat and into the airway.

Methylprednisolone, a steroid drug, became the standard treatment for acute spinal cord injury in 1990, when a large-scale clinical trial, supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), showed significant recovery in patients who were given the drug within the first eight hours after their injury. Methylprednisolone appears to reduce the damage to nerve cells and decreases inflammation near the injury site by suppressing activities of immune cells.

Realignment of the spine using a rigid brace or axial traction is usually done as soon as possible to stabilize the spine and prevent additional damage.

On the third day after the injury, doctors give patients a complete neurological examination to diagnose the severity of the injury and predict the likely extent of recovery. The ASIA Impairment Scale is the standard diagnostic tool used by doctors. X-rays, MRIs, or more advanced imaging techniques are also used to visualize the entire length of the spine.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Continue Learning about Spinal Cord Injuries

What are possible complications after spine surgery?
Los Robles Regional Medical CenterLos Robles Regional Medical Center
Although postoperative complications after spine surgery are a rare occurrence, experts believe that...
More Answers
What is central cord syndrome?
Riverside Center for NeurosciencesRiverside Center for Neurosciences
Central cord syndrome is a form of incomplete spinal cord injury characterized by impairment in the ...
More Answers
Walking Again with the Help of an Exoskeleton
Walking Again with the Help of an Exoskeleton
What Would an Exoskeleton Mean for Someone Who Is Paralyzed?
What Would an Exoskeleton Mean for Someone Who Is Paralyzed?

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.