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Spinal Trauma - A Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury


A person can suffer from spinal trauma if they sustain an injury that causes damage to their spinal cord, spinal column, or the bones that surround their spinal cord. Damage to the spinal cord, which includes the nerves that convey information between the brain and the rest of the body, can produce permanent changes in the functions of the body.

A severe impact to the spine that fractures dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more bones of the spine can be the cause of a spinal traumatic injury (vertebrae). Another possible cause of this condition is a penetrating injury that slices the spinal cord, such as that caused by a gunshot wound.

There are situations when seemingly little tumbles or mishaps can result in substantial damage to the spinal cord. This may occur if there is a degree of underlying weakness, dislocation, or instability due to a condition known as degenerative spine disease that is untreated. This condition can cause weakness, dislocation, or instability.

Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal Cord Injuries

Types And Symptoms Of Spinal Trauma

COPYRIGHT_SPINE: Published on https://spinal-injury.net/spinal-trauma/ by Dr. Bill Butcher on 2022-10-06T10:19:21.745Z

Following a spinal traumatic injury, your ability to control your limbs is influenced by two things: the location of the injury on your spinal cord and its severity.

The neurological level of your injury is the lowest portion of your spinal cord that is unharmed following spinal trauma. The completeness of the damage, often known as its severity, might fall into one of the following categories:

Complete or incomplete spinal cord injuries are possible.


Total paralysis (loss of function) below the level of damage results from a full injury. Both sides of the body are impacted. A quadriplegic, or paralysis of the entire lower body, can result from a full injury (paraplegia).


After an incomplete injury on one or both sides of the body, some function remains. There are still some channels of communication between the body and the brain.

Other names for paralysis brought on by a spinal cord injury include the following:


The inability to move the upper and lower bodies on one's own is referred to as tetraplegia. The fingers, hands, arms, chest, legs, feet, and toes are often the regions of reduced mobility. However, the head, neck, and shoulders may or may not be included.


The word paraplegia refers to the inability of the lower body to move on its own. The abdomen may or may not be among the areas of reduced movement, along with the toes, feet, and legs.

Spinal Cord Medical View
Spinal Cord Medical View

Treatment Of Spinal Trauma

SCI is treated before the patient is even admitted to the hospital. At the scene of the accident, paramedics or another emergency medical staff gently immobilize the whole spine. This immobilization is maintained in the emergency room while more urgent, life-threatening issues are found and handled.

The spine's alignment and immobilization are maintained during surgery if the patient needs it due to injury to the abdomen, chest, or another location.

Nonsurgical Procedures

Typically, a patient with an SCI will be hospitalized in an intensive care unit (ICU). Traction may be used for many cervical spine injuries to aid in realigning the spine.

For spinal trauma patients to have the best results, standard ICU care, such as keeping blood pressure steady, monitoring cardiovascular function, ensuring appropriate ventilation and lung function, and preventing and rapidly treating infections and other problems, is crucial.


On rare occasions, a surgeon could decide to take a patient straight to surgery if it looks like a herniated disc, blood clot, or other lesion has compressed the spinal cord. Patients with an incomplete SCI or gradual neurological deterioration are the ones who have this procedure the most frequently.

Even if surgery cannot repair the spinal cord injury, it may be necessary to stabilize the spine to prevent further pain or deformity. The procedure that will benefit the patient the most will be chosen by the surgeon.

Follow Up

Deep vein thrombosis, pneumonia, and pressure ulcers are among the secondary medical issues that are quite likely to affect people with neurologically full tetraplegia or spinal trauma. The most common effect reported is a pressure ulcer, which is present in 15% of patients one year after an injury and gets worse slowly over time.

The degree of the initial damage determines how well a person will recover from it. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that someone who has a full SCI would restore function below the degree of damage. If there is any improvement, though, it usually shows up in the first few days after the injury.

Depending on the kind of damage, incomplete injuries frequently improve over time to some extent. Even though a full recovery is usually unlikely, some people might at least be able to walk and have some control over their bowels and bladders.

The focus of care and therapy once a patient has been stabilized is on supportive care and rehabilitation. Supportive care can be given by family members, nurses, or professionally trained assistants.

As part of this care, the person may get help bathing, getting dressed, changing positions to avoid bedsores, and doing other things. Physical treatment, occupational therapy, and counseling for emotional support are frequently used in rehabilitation.

Initially, the services could be provided while the patient is in the hospital. Some individuals are then admitted to a rehabilitation center after being hospitalized. Other patients may continue their rehabilitation as outpatient or at home.

Spinal Trauma: Cervical Trauma Protocol, Common Spinal Fractures – Radiology | Lecturio

What Causes Spinal Cord Trauma?

The reasons for spinal cord compression might vary widely. In rare circumstances, the compression might start unexpectedly. Other situations may include compression over time. The following are some examples of the spinal cord compression caused by these

  • The spinal cord can become compressed as a result of several degenerative conditions, such as arthritis.
  • Compression of the spinal cord may result from a ruptured disk.
  • Swelling that results from damage to the spinal cord or the surrounding region may cause compression.
  • Large clots that squeeze the spinal cord can develop as a result of bleeding disorders and chiropractic treatment.
  • Bone spurs can make the spinal canal smaller and press on the spinal cord as a result.
  • Tumors, both malignant and non-cancerous, can develop close to the spinal cord. If this happens, the tumor may press against the chord, compressing it.

Who Gets Spinal Trauma?

Trauma to the spinal cord is something that may happen to anyone and is usually the outcome of an accident. When someone gets hurt, the spinal cord is hurt more often in men than in women.

Complete Versus Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
Complete Versus Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

The following are common causes of spinal traumatic injury:

  • Automobile collisions.
  • Falls from great heights.
  • Violence is caused by arms (primarily gunshot wounds).
  • Injuries sustained during sports and recreational activities.
  • Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries can be caused by osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections, and degenerative disc disease, among other things.

How To Prevent Spinal Cord Trauma?

The following suggestions might lower your chance of suffering a spinal cord injury:

  • Drive carefully. One of the most frequent causes of spinal cord injuries is car accidents. Every time you are in a moving car, buckle up.
  • Make sure your kids use a child safety seat or a seat belt that is suitable for their age and weight. Children under the age of 12 should always travel in the rear seat to avoid airbag injuries.
  • Before diving, check the water's depth. Avoid diving into an above-ground pool unless it is at least 12 feet (approximately 3.7 meters) deep, and avoid diving into the water if you are unsure of its depth.
  • Avoid falling. To reach high-up items, use a step stool with a grab bar. Place railings on the stairs. Install non-slip mats in the shower or tub and on tile flooring. Use safety gates to restrict staircases for small children, and think about installing window guards.
  • When participating in sports, use caution. Wear any safety equipment that is advised. In sports, refrain from making snap decisions. In baseball, for instance, you shouldn't slide headfirst, and in football, you shouldn't tackle while wearing your helmet's top. Use a spotter for new gymnastics maneuvers.
  • Avoid drinking and driving. Driving while inebriated or under the influence of drugs is not recommended. Ride alone if the driver has been drinking.

What Is The Life Expectancy Of Someone With A Spinal Cord Injury?

Depending on the severity of the injury, a person with a spinal cord injury may have a shorter or longer life. In general, 85% of spinal cord injury survivors who survive the first 24 hours are still alive after 10 years.

Respiratory illnesses, most of which are caused by pneumonia, are the most frequent cause of mortality. In fact, over the whole 15-year period immediately following SCI, pneumonia is the number one killer of people of all ages, genders, races, and quadriplegics.

The life expectancy of those who have had spinal cord injuries for at least 25 years has increased. The survival rate is 60% at 25 or more years following injury, and this percentage has been rising over time. Numerous leading signs also indicate that the quality of that prolonged life expectancy is good.

People Also Ask

What Is Considered Spinal Trauma?

Spinal trauma is damage to the spine caused by a serious fall or a car accident.

Can The Spinal Cord Repair Itself?

Serious spinal cord injuries frequently result in lifelong disabilities for the survivors. After an injury, adult spinal cord nerve cells do not regenerate.

What Is The Main Goal Of Treating Spinal Traumatic Injury?

The main objectives of spinal cord injury treatment are to increase functional independence and minimize consequences.


An acute spinal cord injury is the outcome of any kind of spinal trauma. It is an urgent matter of medical importance that calls for rapid care.

The intensity of symptoms is determined by the extent of the damage to the spinal cord as well as the location of the lesion (such as weakness, paralysis, and loss of sensation).

If there is damage to the spinal cord in the middle of the back, it may just affect the legs. However, if there is damage to the spinal cord in the neck, it may also affect the arms and even the muscles that control respiration.

During the course of treatment of spinal trauma, a patient may have surgery, take medicine, or participate in other types of therapy. While it's possible that some people will regain some function over time, others may continue to struggle with ongoing problems.

You can learn to adapt to new ways of doing things with the help of physical therapy and occupational therapy.

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About The Authors

Dr. Bill Butcher

Dr. Bill Butcher - With more than two decades of experience, Dr. Bill Butcher aims to provide a repository for educational materials, sources of information, details of forthcoming events, and original articles related to the medical field and about health subjects that matter to you. His goal is to help make your life better, to help you find your way when faced with healthcare decisions, and to help you feel better about your health and that of your family. Bill received his medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine and spent his entire career helping people find the health and medical information, support, and services they need. His mission is to help millions of people feel fantastic by restoring them to optimal health.

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