What is Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when a traumatic event results
in damage to cells within the spinal cord or severs the nerve tracts that relay
signals up and down the spinal cord. The most common types of SCI include
contusion (bruising of the spinal cord) and compression (caused by pressure on
the spinal cord). Other types of injuries include lacerations (severing or
tearing of some nerve fibers, such as damage caused by a gun shot wound), and
central cord syndrome (specific damage to the corticospinal tracts of the
cervical region of the spinal cord). Severe SCI often causes paralysis (loss of
control over voluntary movement and muscles of the body) and loss of sensation
and reflex function below the point of injury, including autonomic activity such
as breathing and other activities such as bowel and bladder control. Other
symptoms such as pain or sensitivity to stimuli, muscle spasms, and sexual
dysfunction may develop over time. SCI patients are also prone to develop
secondary medical problems, such as bladder infections, lung infections, and bed
Is there any treatment?
While recent advances in emergency care and rehabilitation allow
many SCI patients to survive, methods for reducing the extent of injury and for
restoring function are still limited. Immediate treatment for acute SCI includes
techniques to relieve cord compression, prompt (within 8 hours of the injury)
drug therapy with corticosteroids such as methylprednisolone to minimize cell
damage, and stabilization of the vertebrae of the spine to prevent further
What is the prognosis?
The types of disability associated with SCI vary greatly
depending on the severity of the injury, the segment of the spinal cord at which
the injury occurs, and which nerve fibers are damaged. Most people with SCI
regain some functions between a week and 6 months after injury, but the
likelihood of spontaneous recovery diminishes after 6 months. Rehabilitation
strategies can minimize long-term disability.
What research is being done?
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
research on trauma-related disorders such as SCI focuses on increasing
scientific understanding of how changes in molecules, cells, and their complex
interactions determine the outcome of SCI, and finding ways to prevent and treat
these injuries. There is also increasing interest in neural stem and progenitor
cells and their potential application in cell replacement therapies for the
treatment of complex neurological disorders such as SCI.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Paralysis & Whiplash
Spinal Cord Injury
Information provided by