The spinal cord contains various nerves and other tissues that connect the brain down to the buttocks. Having said, the spinal cord is responsible for sending messages to the brain which is also transferred to all parts of the body.
Once the spinal cord is injured, a lot of impulses will be affected. This is why injury on the said organ can cause long-lasting effects on a person’s mobility. If the injury hits the area near the neck, the person could even experience paralysis.
How does Spinal Cord Injury Occur?
There are strenuous activities that could be the cause of a spinal cord injury. Violent acts or unpredictable accidents are also possible factors.
The following events may also lead to a spinal cord injury:
- Stabbing or gunshot
- Electrical accidents
- Sporting accidents
- Falling accidents
- Trauma on the face, head, neck, back, or chest
- Car accidents
- Hitting the bottom after diving into shallow water
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury
- Mobility problems such as walking
- Loss of control of bowel or bladder
- Unusual positioning of the head
- A headache
- Unusual shocks
- Feeling numb
- Inability to move the arms or legs
- Pain, pressure, or stiffness on the back or neck area
Diagnosing a Spinal Cord Injury
Once the mentioned symptoms above are all present, it is most likely that the doctor would suspect a spinal cord injury.
Diagnostic Tools through Radiological Evaluation are considered to diagnose an injury. Radiological diagnosis of spinal cord injury may include X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. The first step upon diagnosis will always be an X-ray. The patient will then do MRI testing after the first test. But, there are clinics where their radiological diagnosis will begin through a CT scan. This is because a CT scan may already detect any fracture on the bones.
What to do on a Spinal Cord Injury?
- Call 911 right away
- Do not move the person
- Tell the person to stay still as possible since mobility may cause repositioning of the head
- Perform CPR if needed
Types of Spinal Cord Injury
The intensity of the injury will depend on which part of the spinal cord is affected. According to research, the closer the injury is to the brain, the more sever is the effect it has on the individual.
Cervical Spinal Cord Injury
This type of injury is also called tetraplegia. Cervical injuries result in weakness in the arms and legs. The injury results when the neck region is affected. As a result, the injury leads to loss of muscle strength. Usually, all the areas located at the top of the back is affected. This also results in various health issues such as respiratory concerns, physical sensation, sexual dysfunction, and inability to regulate body temperature.
Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury
This injury leads to the weakness or paralysis of the legs or what experts would call, paraplegia. Like Cervical Injury, sexual dysfunction and loss of physical sensation may also occur. The lumbar area of the spinal cord control different parts of the back including the buttocks. Having said, lumbar injury levels would affect the said areas where the lumbar region controls. Yet, the upper body would remain unaffected. To treat this injury, surgery or external stabilization is required.
Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury
Also known as paraplegia, Thoracic injury could also bring weakness and paralysis to the legs. But, this type of injury is not that common like the others due to the protection provided by the rib cage. Even though the arms and hands would be left unaffected, certain areas of the back, as well as the abdomen, would still be affected. Patients who have this type of injury are required to wear a brace on the trunk to give them stability.
Sacral Spinal Cord Injury
The sacral region controls the lower body including the thighs, legs, feet, as well as the genital organs. As a result, Sacral injury could cause paralysis or weakness on the hips and legs. It may even lead to sexual dysfunction, and loss of bowel and bladder function.
A spinal cord injury is also divided into two kinds; complete and incomplete.
A complete spinal cord injury results in the total loss of motor functions on the area below the injury level. According to research, almost 50% of spinal cord injuries are complete.
But, an incomplete spinal cord injury doesn’t lead to a total loss of motor function. The spinal cord may still be able to convey messages to and from the brain.
How to Treat a Spinal Cord Injury?
Treatment or emergency care for a patient with spinal cord injury is already given even before the patient gets hospitalized.
Intensive Care Unit Treatment
A person suffering from a spinal cord injury will be admitted in the ICU. Treatments given in the ICU are provided in helping the patient recover well. Such treatments are needed to help stabilize blood pressure, secure adequate ventilation, treat and prevent possible infections and complications, and also check cardiovascular function.
Doctors would often suggest surgery if the spinal cord is compressed by a blood clot or lesion. If the said area is also affected by the herniated disc, surgery may also be recommended to the patient. Patients who usually undergo surgery are those that have incomplete spinal cord injury. There are various types of surgical procedures and it will up to the doctor on which one to perform to give the patients the best outcomes. Even if surgery cannot completely reverse the damage in the spinal cord, such procedure may prevent pain and future deformities.
The Long-term Outcome
Even after a spinal cord injury, there are still individuals who are living their lives to the fullest. Most especially if the patient is responding well to the treatments given. Yet, severe levels of spinal cord injury may also lead to a life-long effect on the patients. Usually, they would be needing assistive devices such as walkers or wheelchairs to help them with their daily activities despite the loss of mobility.