Spinal cord injury can have severe consequences such as permanent disability or paralysis and loss of sensation. Injury to the spinal cord cannot be reversed but the treatment can help patients to live productively and independently.
Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury
There are different treatments available for spinal cord injury and, currently, research is being done to improve nerve function and nerve cell regeneration in patients with this condition. Existing treatment for spinal cord injury aims to minimize the damage to the nervous system and prevent further complications of the condition.
Spinal cord injury is a medical emergency, which requires prompt treatment to reduce the long-term effects of any head and neck trauma. The treatment typically begins at the site of the accident. The patient’s spine is immobilized by using a cervical collar and rigid backboard to prevent it from moving. The patient is then transported to a hospital.
Acute Phase of Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury
When the patient is received into the emergency room, health care providers aim to manage respiratory problems, prevent shock, keep the patient’s neck immobilized and prevent potential complications such as cardiovascular problems, stool or urine retention or deep vein thrombosis.
Imaging tests such as MRI and CT scans are used to determine the extent of the patient’s injury. While undergoing these tests, the sufferer is sedated to remain still and avoid further damage.
At the intensive care unit, spinal cord injury is treated with corticosteroid drug called methylprednisone (Medrol). This medication can be administered eight hours after the injury to prevent additional complications of spinal cord injury. Methylprednisone acts by reducing damage to nerve cells and inflammation in the injured area.
Spinal traction may be required to align the spine and prevent it from moving. This can be done with the use of metal braces attached to the skull to keep the head in place. A rigid neck collar or a special bed can be also used.
Sometimes, decompressive surgery may be needed to remove bone fragments, foreign objects, fractured vertebrae or herniated disks that press on the spinal cord. Surgical treatment also helps to stabilize the spine and prevent spine deformity.
Once the patient is stabilized, doctors focus on preventing potential secondary problems that may occur such as deconditioning, muscle contractures, pressure ulcers, bowel and bladder problems, respiratory infections and formation of blood clots.
Rehabilitation includes therapies such as physical and occupational. Rehabilitation team consists of physical therapist, occupational therapist, rehabilitation nurse, rehabilitation psychologist, social worker, dietitian and recreation therapist.
Rehabilitation therapies aim to help the patient regain muscle strength and redevelop fine motor skills. During rehabilitation, the patient will also learn to use adaptive equipment such as wheelchair and other devices. Effects of spinal cord injury can be managed with medications. This includes drugs to treat pain and muscle spasticity and drugs for managing bowel and bladder control.