The human spinal column is composed of a series of substructures that protect and support the human spinal cord. Traumatic injuries of the spinal cord can result in a wide range of serious consequences; both temporary and permanent, including the loss of sensation below the waist or paraplegia, or loss of sensation to all four extremities (arms legs and torso) or quadriplegia. Trauma to the boney structures of the spine or the surrounding ligaments, without impact or injury to the spinal cord, may require open surgical repair in order to reduce or eliminate resulting spinal instability that may leave the central spinal cord vulnerable to future injury. These corrective surgeries include spinal fusions performed by way of wiring or through the installation of rods and bolts. The risks of permanent paralysis involved in any form of spinal surgery are significant and are considered only in cases involving very serious injury.
Spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma, as opposed to disease. These injuries often involve the spinal cord or nerve roots, and depending on the severity of the damage the symptoms a victim experiences can vary greatly. It will be diagnosed using a combination of x-rays, MRIs and CT scans. These tests are able to tell where the injury is, and also its severity.
After a patient is diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, the road to recovery can be quite long. The treatment actually begins even before the diagnosis with “clearing the cervical spine”. This treatment is used on all people who may have a spinal cord injury as a precaution, and involves treating the patient as though he or she is injured to avoid any further damage. It involves immobilizing the patient using a long spine board as well as a hard collar.
A person with this type of injury can experience many complications, including respiratory failure, pneumonia, neurogenic shock, and pulmonary emboli. However, most of these can be seen early by doctors and avoided. Because of this, many facilities will keep patients in the ICU.
Surgery can be necessary as the injury can cause bone fragments to break off, and they must then be removed to stabilize the patient. Steroids can also be used, specifically methylprednisolone. It can help improve the patient’s condition if it used within 6 hours of when the injury occurred.
Which combination of treatments is used, there is almost always rehabilitation involved. It usually begins while the patient is still in acute care is crucial, and the includes help from physical therapists as well as psychologists, social workers and other types of health care professionals. This group will come together and work with the patient to develop realistic goals and create a plan for recovery.
Many of these injuries can have lifelong implications on the patient, no matter which treatments are used. If the injury is complete (resulting in a total loss of function), the patient’s chance at recovering more than a little of any lost functions is low. However, if the injury is not complete recovery is more likely. The most severe injuries can result in lifelong quadriplegia or paraplegia for the patient.
Contact a Lawyer
If you have suffered a broken spine as a result of a car accident, or negligence of others, Parker Scheer recommends that you consult with a personal injury lawyer and evaluate your case. For your free confidential case review click here and receive a response from one of our attorneys within hours. If you prefer, you can also telephone our offices in Boston seven days a week at toll-free.