Spinal Cord Trauma

Spine is one of the most crucial and delicate part of human body that may get injured due to various activities like accidents, sports injuries, falls, violence etc. Although spine is well protected by discs, ligaments and muscles, but is still vulnerable to traumatic injury as the rest of skeletal system.

Spinal Cord Trauma

Spinal cord contains the nerves and passes from neck to back to transfer messages between brain and body. So any injury to spine can cause loss of movement (paralysis) below the site of the injury.

Any kind of damage to the spinal cord either directly or indirectly due to damage of vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column is termed as spinal cord trauma. Such damage often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions.

Risk factors of Spinal cord trauma

Although trauma can happen to anyone but the following risk factors may predispose a person to spinal cord trauma:

  • Males are affected more than females

  • Age between 16 and 30 years or above 65 years

  • Engaging in risky activities like driving or playing without safety etc.

  • A bone or joint disorder such as arthritis or osteoporosis

  • Weak individual

Causes of Spinal cord trauma

Spinal cord may get injured due to any of the following reasons:

  • A sudden, traumatic blow to the spine resulting in fracture, dislocation, crush, or compression of one or more vertebrae

  • Motor vehicle accidents

  • Sports and recreation injuries

  • Assault or other acts of violence

  • Fall from a great height

  • Landing on the head during a sports injury

  • Gunshot or knife wounds that can penetrate and cut the spinal cord

  • Diving accident

  • Electric shock

  • Extreme twisting of the middle of the body

  • Disorders like arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections or disk degeneration of the spine may also injure the spinal cord (non-traumatic injury)

Symptoms of Spinal cord trauma

The symptoms of spinal cord trauma may vary depending upon the location, type and severity (complete or partial) of the injury and include:

  • Bleeding from the site of trauma

  • Loss of movement

  • Loss of sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold and touch

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

  • Pain, stiffness or stinging sensation due to damage of nerve fibers

  • Numbness in hands, fingers, feet or toes

  • Weakness & incoordination

  • Paralysis of part or whole body

  • Lack of alertness

  • Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms

  • Difficulty in walking, standing, breathing, coughing etc.

Classification of Spinal Trauma

Spinal trauma can be classified under following:

  • Thoracic (chest level) injuries

  • Lumbo-sacral (lower back) injuries

  • Cervical (neck) injuries

Diagnosis of Spinal cord injury

It is an emergency condition that requires immediate medical care and evaluation of the damage. This requires a thorough physical examination by the physician along with following diagnostic tests:

  • X-ray

  • CT scan

  • MRI scan

  • Myelogram

  • Somatosensory evoked potential testing or magnetic stimulation, etc.

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