A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that causes temporary or permanent changes in its function. Symptoms may include loss of muscle function, sensation, or autonomic function in the parts of the body served by the spinal cord below the level of the injury. Injury can occur at any level of the spinal cord and can be complete injury, with a total loss of sensation and muscle function, or incomplete, meaning some nervous signals are able to travel past the injured area of the cord. Depending on the location and severity of damage, the symptoms vary, from numbness to paralysis to incontinance. Long term outcomes also range widely, from full recovery to permanent paraplegia or quadriplegia.
In the majority of cases the damage results from physical trauma such as accidents, gunshot wounds, falls, or sports injury, but it can also result from nontraumatic causes such as infection, and tumors. Just over half of injuries affect the cervical spine, while 15% occur in each of the thorasic spine, border between the thoracic and lumbar spine, and lumbar spine alone. Diagnosis is typically based on symptoms and investigations.
Efforts to prevent SCI include individual measures such as using safety equipment, societal measures such as safety regulations in sports and traffic, and improvements to equipment. Treatment starts with restriction of spine motions and maintaining adequate blood pressure.Other interventions vary depending on the location and extent of the injury, from bed rest to surgery. In many cases, spinal cord injuries require long-term physical and occupational therapy, especially if it interferes with daily living activities.
In our centre we operate nearly 100 spinal cord injury patients with good results.