What is spinal injury?
Injury to the spine and spinal cord may result from an accident or injury or from a condition affecting the surrounding bones, tissues or blood vessels. Motor vehicle accidents, falls, assaults and sports injuries can all cause spinal injury. An otherwise minor injury may cause extensive damage if the spine was already weakened due to another condition, such as osteoporosis. In most cases, spinal injury occurs in young, healthy individuals, most frequently affecting men ages 15 – 35.
Symptoms vary widely depending on the location and extent of the injury, and can result in loss of feeling and paralysis at and below the injury. Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Exaggerated reflexes/spasms
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Loss of sensation or numbness
How is spinal injury diagnosed?
Spinal injury is generally an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Depending on the injury, the physician will likely perform a physical exam of the injury and a neurological exam. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, a computed tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, or a myleogram (an X-ray of the spinal canal after contrast material has been injected).
Other diagnostic tools may also be used to help pinpoint the injury's location and severity.
How is spinal injury treated?
Medication to reduce swelling will likely be given at the hospital. Surgery [link to new minimally invasive spine surgery page] may be needed to remove fluid or tissues that press on the spinal cord, remove bone fragments or foreign objects or fuse broken bones. If needed, surgery will likely happen quickly, as the time between injury and treatment can affect the long-term outcome. In the case of paralysis, if pressure on the spinal cord can be removed before the nerves are destroyed, paralysis may improve.
A back brace may be used to stabilize the spine, and physical therapy, occupational therapy and rehabilitation may be necessary during and after a hospital stay. Medical devices and electronic aids can help people with spinal injuries maintain their independence and restore function, using voice-activated and electrical stimulation technology.
The surgeons at Rex Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists can help you decide on the treatment that's best for you. They specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery and are experienced in diagnosing and treating disc disorders and disease, using the newest techniques for relieving pain and returning you to an active lifestyle. To make an appointment at Rex Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists, call 919-784-1410.