A spinal cord injury or SCI is the damage to any part of the spinal cord at the end of the cauda equine or spinal canal. Symptoms of SCI may include loss of muscle sensitivity and functionality. It triggers some automatic function below the site of injury, and it can happen in any part or level of the spinal cord. One of the worst cases of SCI is the total loss of muscle function and sensation. Thus, it is important to note the steps in handling SCI in its early stage or after the incident.
The Important Things To Know
Stabilization – After an individual suffers a traumatic event or accident, the very first priority of the rescuer is to stabilize the person’s breathing, spinal column, and blood pressure. It is necessary to not put any tension to the patient’s back to avoid troubled breathing. Most of the time, the recommendation of a cervical collar and backboard usage is a must as well. It is also essential not to place any unnecessary strain on the patient’s body that will cause further injuries. A patient suspected with SCI should be brought to a level 1 trauma center where they provide the highest form of surgical treatment and care to trauma inflicted patients. From there, the center offers a full range of surgeons, specialists and a variety of equipment to handle an SCI treatment procedure.
Injury Classification – With the use of modern medical tools such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, doctors can entirely determine the extent of damage to the injury. With these methods, physicians can also classify or rule out SCI. Part of this procedure includes the patient going into a series of neurological examinations. During these series of tests, the doctor will then measure the amount of muscle tone, sensation, and reflexes of all the patient’s limbs and trunks. The results will be later referred to the ASIA (American Spinal Injury Association classification) for the spinal cord injury scale and then it is labeled according to its corresponding category.
Neuroprotection – Therapies such as neuroprotection aims to stop or minimize the body’s reaction to the injury from any spinal cord damage. During the first few hours of the injury, the use of methylprednisolone (a kind of steroid drug) is essential to the patient. It helps in minimizing the inflammation of the affected part so the patient can reach an improved recovery. Although no superior evidence supports this type of procedure, there’s still a high chance of better results from it. Another form of neuroprotection is therapeutic hypothermia or mostly known as spinal cord cooling. This treatment lowers the overall body temperature to protect the cells in the body from further damage after SCI.
Surgical Intervention – There’s a need for early surgical intervention on patients with SCI. The early detection and treatment for SCI cases aim to remove the risk of permanent damage. The process seeks to stabilize the patient’s condition by discussing possible surgical intervention or procedure. There’s also a proper treatment plan that can estimate the recovery time. The recommendation of a surgical procedure is due to several reasons such as removal of bone fragments, blood clots, herniated disks, spinal tumors, and anything else that may affect the function of the spine.
The symptoms of the injury vary depending on its location. Spinal cord injury most of the time causes enduring changes in body strength, sensation, and other body functions. That is why it is vital to act immediately after the occurrence of SCI because there’s a possibility of having permanent damage. Therefore, the earlier the treatment procedure is administered to the patient, the more significant the chance of recovery.