What is a spinal cord injury? | Dr. Andrew Cash, MD Las Vegas, Nevada

By Brooke Strickland and Andrew Cash, MD

Injuries to the spinal cord are very serious and should be treated with the utmost of attentive care.  It’s possible to have a spinal cord injury but not have a broken neck or back if a person’s neck or back vertebrae is broken but the spinal cord around these bones have not been affected. 

What are the effects?

When the spinal cord is injured, the result is loss or impaired sensation, function, or mobility.  Depending on the location of the injury, there are some serious complications.  If the injury occurs in the middle of the back, the chest and legs will likely be affected, resulting in a paraplegic state.   If the lower back is affected, there may be some loss of functioning in the hips or legs.  Effects truly depend on the type of injury and the level of injury and they’re categorized as “complete” or “incomplete”. A complete injury means there is no function, voluntary movement, or feeling below the injury.  Incomplete means that there is some sensation below the injury, meaning the patient may be able to move the limb, feel parts of the body, or have mobility or functioning on one side more than the other.  Thankfully with advances in spine care and technology, incomplete injuries are becoming more frequent rather than devastating injuries that affect complete mobility or function of the person’s body.

Treatment for spinal cord injuries varies greatly.  There is no way to undo damage done to the spinal cord.  Patients will likely be evaluated by a team of specialists, including neurosurgeons, psychologists, or orthopedic surgeons to create a plan of action.  Medications will be prescribed, and immobilization tactics will start, such as traction to help stabilize the spine or to align it properly.  Braces, body harnesses, or neck collars may be needed, and many times surgery is necessary to help relieve pressure put on the spine or fix damaged vertebrae that are causing pressure on the spinal cord.   Rehabilitation will be key to a textbook recovery, as well.  The patient will begin working with a team of rehab specialists including physical therapists, dietitians, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, psychologists, or physiatrist. 

If you want more information on spinal cord injuries, contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: http://www.disclv.com

You can also view Dr. Cash's Verified Reviews® at www.medrounds.org/Dr_Andrew_Cash or his personal page at www.andrew-cash-md.com.