What Is Involved in Treating Spinal Cord Damage?

Suffering a spinal cord injury isn’t always obvious. This is why it is critical that anyone who suffers damage to the head, neck, spine or pelvis should be looked at thoroughly for possible spinal cord damage. Because spinal cord injuries can lead to life-changing injuries such as partial or complete paralysis or even death, it is critical that people with spinal cord injuries and their families understand what’s involved in treating these types of traumatic injuries.

Because spinal cord injuries often leave people without vital functions, immediate treatment is needed for survival and to minimize nerve cells from dying to prevent further damage. Comprehensive treatment can include emergency medical care, medication, surgery, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.

  • Room with MRI scannerEmergency medical care can begin at the scene of a car accident. When paramedics arrive, they will assess injuries and determine if they need to stabilize a person’s head and neck with a brace and backboard and transport the individual to the hospital. A person’s heat rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be monitored and doctors will work to stabilize the individual in order to prevent additional injuries. Certain imaging and diagnostic tests such as an MRI or CT scan will be ordered. Additionally, the spine may need to be realigned to reduce pressure being put on the spinal cord.  
  • Medication (a powerful corticosteroid called Medrol or methylprednisolone) can be very helpful in treating spinal cord injury victims. This medicine is often given within the first eight hours of injury in order to help promote healing, minimize nerve damage, and prevent further damage. When this medicine is given intravenously early on, it can help reduce the extent of permanent paralysis. There are other medications that can be given to spinal cord injury victims that can help with bowel and bladder control, muscle spasticity, and to alleviate some of the pain.
  • Surgery is often needed when doctors determine there are herniated discs, bone fragments, or foreign objects compressing the spine; they may need to be surgically removed in order to relieve the pressure on the spinal column. Surgery may also be needed to stabilize the spine or when there is a deformity of the spine. Spinal surgery can often help a person recover some of their functions.
  • Rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries typically involves a rehabilitation team that focuses on physical therapy, occupational therapy, vocational therapy, emotional therapy, and more. Physical therapy is designed to regain leg and arm strength and communication skills. Occupational therapy will help those who can still self-groom and get in and out of bed. This type of therapy will focus on fine motor skills. Vocational rehabilitation is designed to provide people with educational training and work skills to be able to return to the work force or gain skills for a new type of job. Rehabilitation programs will involve counseling to give spinal cord injury survivors the emotional support they need. Additionally, rehabilitation will help people regain their independence through adaptive devices, such as teaching people how to use their wheelchairs, leg braces, and computer adaptations.

Because there are new standards of care, surgical techniques, antibiotics and medications, aggressive rehabilitation, and developments in spinal nerve regeneration, people with spinal cord injuries have a greater life expectancy and have some hope that their functions may eventually improve.

What used to be thought of as a permanently disabling or fatal injury is now an injury that many people can survive and possibly even recover some of their function due to the type of new treatments that have been developed over the last several decades. This is why seeking immediate medical attention for suspected spinal cord damage is critical.

Although medication and rehabilitation can help reduce the damage to nerve cells, there is still no total cure for spinal cord injury. As a result, victims of spinal cord injuries often need ongoing medical care, which can be very expensive. This is why those living with spinal cord damage need to make sure they receive the maximum possible compensation in order to ensure they have the funds to seek experimental treatments and have the newest technologies that can help improve quality of life. For legal help, please call our law firm at (703) 591-0067 to speak with an injury attorney who understands spinal cord injuries.