Spinal trauma involves damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal. Often causing permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the injury site.
If you have recently injured your spinal cord, it might seem like every aspect of your life has been affected. You might feel the effects of your injury mentally, emotionally and socially.
Your ability to control your limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on where the injury occurred and the severity of the damage.
Dr Shiva will perform a series of tests to determine the neurological level and completeness of your injury.
Spinal cord injuries can cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
Emergency signs and symptoms of spinal trauma
Emergency signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury after an accident include:
Anyone with significant head or neck trauma requires immediate medical evaluation for a spinal injury. It is safest to assume that trauma victims have spinal injuries until proven otherwise.
Spinal cord injuries can result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or discs of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself.
A spinal cord injury can stem from a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of your vertebrae.
Additional damage usually occurs over days or weeks because of bleeding, swelling, inflammation and fluid accumulation in and around your spinal cord.
A nontraumatic spinal cord injury can be caused by arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections or disc degeneration of the spine.
In the emergency room, a doctor may be able to rule out a spinal cord injury by examination, testing for sensory function and movement, and by asking some questions about the accident.
Emergency diagnostic tests may be needed, such as an x-ray, CT or MRI scan if:
A few days after injury, when some of the swelling may have subsided, Dr Shiva will conduct a more comprehensive neurological exam. This involves testing your muscle strength and ability to sense light touch and pinprick sensations to determine the level and completeness of your injury.
Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord. Spinal cord injury treatment focuses on preventing further injury and empowering people with a spinal cord injury to return to an active and productive life.
Urgent medical attention is critical to minimise the effects of head or neck trauma. Treatment for a spinal cord injury often begins at the accident scene.
Emergency personnel typically immobilise the spine as gently and quickly as possible using a rigid neck collar and a rigid carrying board, which they use during transport to the hospital.
Early (acute) stages of treatment
In the emergency room, doctors focus on the following:
Often surgery is necessary to remove fragments of bones, foreign objects, herniated discs or fractured vertebrae that may be compressing the spine. Surgery might also be needed to stabilise the spine to prevent future pain or deformity.
Dr Shiva might not be able to give you a prognosis right away. Recovery, if it occurs, usually relates to the severity and level of the injury. The fastest recovery rate is often seen in the first six months, but some people make minor improvements for up to two years.