spinal cord injuries

Damage to the spinal cord can be caused in various ways. A blow to the spine or a fall on the head or buttocks can cause vertebral displacement, resulting in pressure on the spinal cord. This also occurs in a so-called compression fracture, in which a vertebra is pressed inwards, trapping the spinal cord. Patients with arthrosis, chronic rheumatoid arthritis and cervical myelopathy run an increased risk. Concussion of the spinal cord is a short-term function disturbance not involving permanent damage, but causing tingling that may last for minutes or hours and possibly paralysis of the limbs. Contusion of the spinal cord is more serious, and usually occurs in the neck (whiplash injury), sometimes causing smarting pain in the shoulders or arms resembling that caused by a partial tranverse lesion, in which case limited or complete recovery is possible. If the transverse lesion completely severs the spinal cord, there is no chance of restoration of function. Damage to the spinal cord is established by X-ray or CAT scan, and the exact nature of the injury determined by the symptoms and any reflex abnormalities. Accident victims with such injuries must be moved with the utmost care to prevent further damage to the spine. If medical examination shows instability of the spine, which could lead to vertebral displacement, it should be stabilized – by using a support between head and chest, for example. Loose pieces of bone should be removed by surgery. The patient should be cared for in a bed which permits ease of tranfer from lying on the back to lying on the stomach. Bedsores, pneumonia and cystitis must be prevented through good nursing. Physiotherapy and long-term rehabilitation are important factors for a complete recovery.

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