The spinal cord is a vital organ whose task is to transmit signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Acute spinal cord injury is usually associated with trauma. So, it can be a bruise and a partial or complete rupture. According to statistics, most often, spinal cord injury occurs in men at a young age.
Spinal cord injury leads to movement restrictions and can even be fatal. Most often, the cervical and thoracic regions are affected in this situation. It is not uncommon for patients with spinal cord injuries to remain disabled or even die. There are 33 vertebrae in the human spine. These vertebrae form the backbone and protect the back of the brain. Generally, the higher the injury occurs, the more severe the symptoms. A vertebral injury does not necessarily mean spinal cord injury. However, spinal cord injury can occur without a vertebral fracture. If a person has a spinal cord injury, they need urgent emergency medical attention and examination.
In this article, we look at spinal cord injury, their causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Acute Spinal Cord Injury Overview
To understand what this injury is, you need to understand what the spine consists of. The human spine consists of a large number of bones called vertebrae. The spinal cord runs down through a canal in the center of these bones. It is a bundle of nerves created to transmit messages between the brain and the body. It helps to move and feel an acute spinal cord injury resulting from traumatic injury due to contusion or partial or complete rupture of the spinal cord. This condition is often the cause of disability or even death of patients.
A person who has sustained a spinal cord injury needs urgent medical attention to prevent suffocation and death. During the recovery process, the patient is shown physiotherapy as the main part of the treatment. Doctors are increasingly working to prevent muscle atrophy and contracture. Also, the patient constantly needs special training for the muscles, which the doctor prescribes.
People who have suffered a severe spinal cord injury may have apathy or even depression due to the fear of never regaining the ability to move and control the body. Also, they worry that their relatives must bear most of the work in caring for them. Therefore, one of the ways to prevent depression is occupational therapy. It helps to find new ways to do the necessary things, given the state of health. The faster the patient adapts to the condition that he has now and finds ways to do the required things, the higher the chances of a speedy recovery.
The team of doctors helps the patient’s whole family adapt to the current situation. Medical staff can teach how to care for a patient, follow the doctor’s recommendations, properly train muscles and talk about emergency signals.
Even after recovery, the patient needs medical advice and periodic diagnostics to monitor progress. In some situations, the doctor may recommend that the patient communicates with a psychologist to prevent a depressive state.
Symptoms of Acute Spinal Cord Injury
The symptoms of acute Spinal Cord Injury may vary from patient to patient. They will depend on exactly where the injury is located and which part of the body is most affected. Once a person has a spinal cord injury, the spine is in a state of shock, and this can cause a loss to reduce the sensation of muscle movement and reflexes. Still, as the swelling decreases, the patient may develop several other symptoms depending on the location of the injury. Usually, the severity of symptoms depends on the height of the damage to the spinal cord. For example, the patient may feel the effects of heavy breathing due to an injury to the cervical spine, the first and second vertebrae of the spine, or the middle cervical vertebrae. If the injury occurs in the lower back, it can lead to problems with the bladder, bowels of the legs, and sexual functions.
So patients may experience consequences such as quadriplegia and impaired limb function. Another consequence can be paraplegia, which is characterized by impaired function of the legs and lower body.
The severity of spinal cord injuries determines whether the injury is complete or incomplete. Let’s find out what constitutes complete and incomplete trauma:
- A complete injury means the patient cannot control any body parts below the injury.
- An incomplete injury means that body parts can still be controlled below the injury level.
Let’s look at the most common signs of spinal injury:
- Muscle weakness;
- Loss of voluntary muscle movement in the chest, arms, or legs;
- Breathing problems;
- Loss of sensation in chest or limbs;
- Bowel and bladder problems.
Spinal Cord Injury Causes
SCI can happen in entirely different ways. The most common cause is a crooked neck. It, in turn, can happen for the following reasons:
- Road accidents;
- Injuries received while playing sports;
- Diving accidents;
- Unsuccessful trampoline lessons;
- Injuries resulting from violence;
- Infections that form an abscess on the spinal cord;
- Birth trauma.
There is a category of people at greater risk of getting CSM than others. For example, the average age of getting this injury has increased over the past few decades and is now 42 years old. According to statistics, the majority of people who carry SCI are males. Ironically, white Hispanics are more likely to get SCI than other ethnic groups.
Diagnosis of Acute Spinal Cord Injury
If a patient has received acute SCI, they need urgent medical attention. A doctor’s examination is critical if spinal cord injuries are suspected. In the beginning, the effects of SCI may not be clear. A complete examination and diagnosis are required. As a rule, the examination begins with a survey of the patient regarding his well-being and the passage of diagnostic tests. During the examination, the doctor may ask the patient how the injury occurred and what preceded it. Sometimes, spinal cord injuries can cause permanent neurological problems, and the patient is forced to be under the supervision of doctors. In some causes, the patient is shown a surgical operation to restore the spinal cord after an acute injury.
The following diagnostic options can be used as an examination:
- Blood analysis;
- Computed tomography;
- Magnetic resonance imaging.
Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
As we have already said, a patient who has received SCI requires urgent medical attention. An ambulance must be called to the scene. After the injury, the neck and head may be immobilized. It is necessary so that you do not move. The choice of treatment for acute spinal cord injuries depends on factors such as:
- General health;
- Disease history;
- Degree of SCI;
- Type of injury;
- Drug tolerance;
- Expectations from the treatment process.
Today, restoring a damaged or bruised back brain is almost impossible. However, doctors are looking for ways to stimulate the regeneration of the spinal cord. The severity of the injury and its location on the body determines the patient’s recovery rate. In some cases, spinal cord injuries can be fatal.
Sometimes a patient needs surgery to determine the extent of spinal cord injury, stabilize broken spines, relieve pressure on the injured area, and perform other essential actions.
So, treatment may include the following:
- Constant monitoring of the patient’s condition;
- Medical treatment in the intensive care unit;
- Use of medications such as corticosteroids;
- Breathing apparatus connection;
- Insertion of a bladder catheter;
- Using a patient feeding tube.
Thus, recovery after spinal cord injuries requires long-term hospitalization, constant monitoring of the patient’s condition, and a course of rehabilitation. Medical staff work as a team to monitor the patient’s condition, the work of his most important organs, measure the most critical indicators such as blood pressure and temperature, and control the function of the bladder with the intestines.
When Should You Call the Doctor?
If you or a loved one is undergoing spinal cord injury treatment, you must carefully monitor his condition. Often, with proper treatment and a mild degree of spinal cord injury, it is possible to return many functions and the ability to control your body. However, in some situations, there may be long-term problems or a sudden deterioration in well-being. It is essential to be aware of some symptoms that indicate you need to contact your doctor urgently. Among these symptoms are the following:
- Numbness or loss of sensation;
- loss of bladder or bowel control;
- The appearance of skin ulcers or infections;
- Labored breathing;
- Strong headache
- Irregular urination;
- Severe diarrhea or constipation;
- Severe muscle cramps or spasms;
- The appearance of severe pain.
How to Get the Most Benefit from the Treatment?
To get the clearest and most necessary recommendations from the doctor, he needs to know all the details about the patient’s condition. Also, the patient must write down everything the doctor says and act according to his instructions. Here are some tips to help you work with your doctor to get the most out of your treatment:
- Recall in detail what happened to you on the day you were injured;
- Try to write down in advance all the symptoms you have;
- Write down all the questions you would like to ask;
- Discuss with your doctor the possibility of your recovery and its timing;
- If you are shown physical exercises to regain control over your body, ask your doctor to tell you more about it.
- Ask someone close to you to be with you for your consultation with your doctor. It will help you ask all the necessary questions and remember as much information as possible.
- Write down the name of the diagnosis that you have been given, specify its features and important points;
- Write down all the names of the drugs that a doctor has prescribed to you, as well as the instructions for them;
- Ask about alternative treatments for your illness;
- Learn about diagnostic methods and how to decipher the results correctly;
- Specify the date and time of the second consultation if you need it;
- Find out the doctor’s phone number and when you can contact him if you need to urgently.
Ways to Prevent Acute Spinal Cord Injury
In fact, there is no specific way to prevent spinal cord injuries. However, there are certain safety precautions that will help you avoid this problem. In order to never encounter such an injury, use the following rules:
- Never drive drunk or under the influence of drugs;
- Always wear your seat belt when driving;
- Wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or bicycle;
- Avoid activities that could potentially lead to injury;
- Don’t do extreme sports.
Thus, we looked at spinal cord injury, its causes, symptoms, and consequences. Most often, such injuries occur due to extreme sports or as a result of a traffic accident. To prevent spinal cord injury, refrain from hazardous activities and protect yourself when driving or skiing. Spinal cord injury can lead to disability or even death. A person who suffers a spinal cord injury must be urgently hospitalized for medical attention and a thorough examination. In our clinic, you can undergo an examination and receive recommendations from highly qualified neuropathologists. Every day, we help countless people cope with the symptoms of a wide variety of neurological diseases. If possible, we do our best to help the person recover. Thanks to our modern equipment, we are able to diagnose various severe neurological diseases at an early stage. Sign up for a consultation right now at the phone number: 214-619-1910.
- What are the two types of spinal cord injuries?
Most often, spinal cord injuries are of two types such as complete and incomplete damage. Complete damage to the spinal cord causes irreversible processes in the affected part. With incomplete damage to the spinal cord, there is a chance to return the body’s sensitivity and ability to control it. The chances of this depend on the severity of the spinal cord injury, treatment, and other factors.
- What is the most common spinal cord injury?
The most common types of spinal cord injury are incomplete tetraplegia and paraplegia. Incomplete types of spinal cord injuries account for more than 65% of all spinal cord injuries.
- Can spinal cord injury be cured?
No, spinal cord injury cannot be cured. However, treatment helps prevent further injury and permanent damage.
- What organs are affected by spinal cord injury?
Due to damage to the spinal cord, a person may experience quadriplegia. With this paralysis, all parts of the trunk and limbs are affected.
- Can you walk after a spinal cord injury?
Yes, the patient can walk after a spinal cord injury. It is possible because the spinal cord is subject to regeneration and makes adaptive changes under the influence of such a process as neuroplasticity.