The spinal cord is the main channel of information and action between the brain and the rest of the body. A spinal cord injury can damage the nerves in or at the end of the spinal cord (cauda equina).
The most common spinal injuries are due to fractures of the vertebral column. These injuries can be of complete or incomplete type. In the case of complete injuries, the ability to control motion and sensations below the level of the injury is completely lost (paraplegia or tetraplegia). However, incomplete injuries have some sparing of motor and sensory function and have a better prognosis.
Signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury include:
*Weakness, lack of coordination, or paralysis in any part of your body
* Neck or back pain with numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet, or toes
*Loss of bladder or bowel control
* Difficulty with balance and walking
*Distorted or bent position of the neck or back
* Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from your lungs
Common causes of spinal cord injury are:
*motor vehicle accidents
* Sports injuries
*Complications of surgery
Management and treatment of spinal cord injury
Serious cases require serious care. In such situations, hospitalization where medical care is available full time is necessary where the patient is continuously monitored for better recovery.
CT scans, MRI scans and X-rays help show the extent of the injury inside. They also help decide whether the patient needs surgery for this. Surgery, medication and rehabilitation therapy are the current mainstays of treatment and provide an improved quality of life in most patients with spinal cord injury.
With modern surgical instruments, robotics and 3D navigation, surgery has become safer. Minimally invasive surgery has also further reduced the footprint of spine surgery. This reduces the burden on the patient’s physiology thereby helping in a quick recovery. The surgical goal is to stabilize and decompress the vertebral column and spine, allowing initial mobility.
Early rehabilitation improves outcomes and prevents some complications. All patients require rehabilitation after spinal cord injury from a team of physical/occupational and speech therapists to return to activities of daily living independently or with minimal assistance.
Long-term goals include improving independence, reducing chronic health problems and restoring at least some function in uncomplicated injuries.
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role of robotics
Robotics has changed the way rehabilitation is done nowadays. Neural prostheses and exo-skeletons are now giving mobility and control to people who are completely paralyzed.
People with spinal cord injuries need a good surgical and rehabilitation team with support groups and family training. Constant vigilance is needed to prevent bed sores, venous thrombosis, lung infections and joint contractures.
Disability friendly infrastructure, organizational inclusion and skill retraining will go a long way in making them self-reliant.