What is the immediate treatment for a spinal cord injury?

You may need emergency surgery for a spinal cord injury if there’s trauma to another area of the body. Surgery can also address spinal cord damage from broken bones, blood clots or damaged tissue.

Some research suggests that a corticosteroid injection may help spinal cord injuries. The medication should be given within eight hours after the injury occurs. This treatment may:

  • Improve blood flow.
  • Preserve nerve function.
  • Reduce inflammation.

What is the long-term treatment for a spinal cord injury?

Long-term goals of spinal cord injury treatment include:

  • Enhancing independence and quality of life.
  • Reducing the risk of chronic (ongoing) health conditions.
  • Restoring some nerve function in partial injuries.

Long-term complications of a spinal cord injury may include:

  • Inability to regulate blood pressure or body temperature.
  • Increased risk of heart or lung problems.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Paralysis in the arms or legs.
  • Persistent pain.
  • Spasticity, joint contracture.
  • Sexual dysfunction.

Will I need rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury?

Most people with a spinal cord injury will need some form of physical rehabilitation, or therapy. You may need inpatient (during a hospital stay) or outpatient (after a hospital stay) rehabilitation. A rehabilitation team can help you:

  • Learn to use assistive devices such as walkers or wheelchairs.
  • Regain strength and mobility in areas of the body with nerve function.
  • Recover the skills needed for activities of daily living (ADL), including dressing and using the toilet.

What are neural prostheses and how can they help a spinal cord injury?

Neural prostheses (artificial body parts) are a potential new treatment for spinal cord injuries. A neural prosthesis replaces lost nerve function like how an arm or leg prosthesis replaces a lost limb. An electrical device connects to nerves that are still functioning. You use those nerves to control the prosthesis, which helps you move immobile parts of your body.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/01/2020.

References

  • Akkus S, Sezer N, Ugurlu FG. Chronic Complications of Spinal Cord Injury. World Journal of Orthopedics. 2015;6:23-33. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Spinal Cord Injury. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • Atresh S, Goss B, Schuetz M, Urquhart S, Van Middendorp JJ, Williams RP. Diagnosis and Prognosis of Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury. Global Spine Journal. 2011;1:1-8. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • Bellon K, Bitterman B, Chen D, Klaas SJ, Kolakowsky-Hayner SA, McDowell S. Evidence-based Practice in Primary Prevention of Spinal Cord Injury. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation. 2013;19:25-30. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • Burns AS, Fehlings MG, Harrop JS, Hawryluk G, Kwon BK, Martin AR, Tetreault LA, Wilson JR. A Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Acute Spinal Cord Injury: Introduction, Rationale, and Scope. Global Spine Journal. 2017;73:845-945. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • Chen Y, Devivo MJ, Tang Y, Vogel LC. Causes of Spinal Cord Injury. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation. 2013;19:1-8. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • Fakhoury M. Neural Prostheses for Restoring Functions Lost After Spinal Cord Injury. Neural Regeneration Research. 2015;10:1594-1595. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • Merck Manual. Spinal Cord. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Neurological Diagnostic Tests and Procedures Fact Sheet. Accessed 11/30/2020.
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Spinal Cord Injury Information Page. Accessed 11/30/2020.

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