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What You Need to Know About Spinal Cord Injuries
Monday, March 5, 2018

In the United States, every year, around 12,500 people become victims of spinal cord injuries. For many, it is extremely hard to cope with the catastrophe and handling the challenges of the healthcare system feels like attending medical school. Suddenly, you are learning new terms and may spend endless hours on Google searching for spinal cord anatomy.

A person who’s well informed can make better decisions about their healthcare needs. Education about spinal cord anatomy will help you understand what the doctor is talking about, ask questions and detect errors before you put your life in their hands.

The Basics

The spinal cord is divided into four different regions. Knowing which region suffered the injury often helps with diagnoses and management. Let’s take a brief look at the four regions:
  • Cervical Spinal Cord
    The spinal cord’s topmost portion is called cervical spinal cord. This region has eight vertebrae that are referred to as C1-C8.
  • Thoracic Spinal Cord
    The middle section of our spinal cord is called the thoracic spinal cord and it consists of twelve vertebrae (T1-T12).
  • Lumbar Spinal Cord
    The lower region of our spinal cord is called lumbar spinal cord. Lumbar vertebrae are numbered as L1-L5.
  • Sacral Spine
    The lower-triangular shaped region of your spine is called sacral spine and it also has five vertebrae. While lumbar cords bends inside, the sacral spine’s vertebrae bend slightly outward.
The Types

Spinal cord injuries are divided into two types – complete and incomplete. In complete spinal injury occurs, the person loses the ability to voluntarily move as the spinal cord is fully severed. Incomplete injury is less severe and some functioning is retained in this type of spinal cord injury.

The Symptoms

Some common symptoms of spinal cord injuries are:
  • Bedsores
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chronic pain
  • Loss of sexual functioning
  • Nerve Pain
  • Pneumonia 
The Diagnosis

Usually patients are diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms, and the type and location of the spinal cord injury. Anyone who has been in an accident, suffered a heavy blow, lost consciousness or fallen may have suffered a spinal cord injury. If you’ve been in such a situation and experienced headaches, difficulty breathing, tingling, or difficulty moving, your doctor will perform a checkup to diagnose spinal cord injury.

There’s no single test that can assess all types of spinal cord injuries. Therefore, doctors follow a protocol that includes:
  • Clinical Evaluation
    The doctor will review your symptoms and might conduct blood tests, evaluate the movement of your limbs, check your eyes and perform other tests to arrive at a final diagnosis.
  • Imaging Tests
    The doctor may have to order an MRI test and other radiological imaging tests to examine your spinal cord, spinal column and brain.
The Treatment

What you must know about a spinal cord injury is that treatment begins even before you go to a doctor. It’s important to remain still, avoid moving spinal column and receive emergency care. First few hours after the injury are critical for the survival of a patient.

The doctor will work to construct a detailed treatment plan to address your injury. Every injury is different, but treatment for spinal cord injuries may involve:
  • Addressing the most immediate symptoms for example, a ventilator to assist breathing.
  • Prescribing medication to relieve chronic pain or insomnia.
  • Changes in lifestyle like healthy eating.
  • Physical therapy for retaining mobility.
  • Counseling to help the injured ones cope with the stress and pain of an injury.
  • Surgery. 
If you or your loved ones ever suffer from a spinal cord injury, contact Advanced Neurosurgery to ensure that you get the right treatment and recover to live your life to the fullest.

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