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What are spinal cord injuries?

Colorado residents may know the difficulties encountered by patients who have suffered spinal cord injuries. These injuries can result in changes in sensation, strength and other function below the level of the spinal injury. The most common mechanism is trauma to the spinal column that causes vertebrae to fracture or dislocate. The vertebrae or their components then enter into the spinal cord and damage it.

The severity of a spinal cord injury is based on whether the spinal cord was severed or damaged. The majority of spinal cord injuries do not sever the spinal cord but rather destroy individual axons. Axons are groups of nerve fibers that carry information from the brain to other parts of the body. Damaged axons transmit information poorly, if at all. Depending on the degree of damage to the axons, it might be possible to repair the injury.

Treatment depends on the spinal cord injury and its severity. Respiratory involvement often signals severe injury. If the cervical spine is damaged, there is increased frequency of breathing difficulty and the need for respiratory assistance. Steroids used early decrease swelling, inflammation and its concomitant morbidity. If the cord is not severed, rehabilitation and treatment may restore some function.

Treatment modalities aimed at incomplete spinal cord injury are physical rehabilitation to retrain and surgery to relieve pressure on the cord. Often, even if function is regained, patients will experience chronic bowel and bladder problems.

Since many spinal cord injuries are the result of motor vehicle accidents, the victim might benefit from consulting an attorney to discuss their options. An attorney may help the individual calculate the cost of medical treatment and lost employment as well as rehabilitation. The attorney may file a personal injury suit to recover the cost.

Source: NINDS, "NINDS Spinal Cord Injury Information Page", September 30, 2014

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