Being diagnosed with a spinal cord injury (SCI) can be scary and overwhelming. You will have many questions, specifically about how to recover from this life changing injury. While your questions are better answered by a medical professional who knows you and your medical history best, we have put together a list of answers to common questions that those with a SCI may have on their road to recovery.
What is Spinal Cord Injury?
A spinal cord injury can be defined or described as damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal. When the spinal cord is injured, the body can experience temporary or permanent damage to the sensory, motor and reflex messages – the communication between body and brain.
What’s the leading cause of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)?
The Mayo Clinic of physicians, scientists and researchers lists car accidents as the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Vehicle rollovers and being struck by an automobile as a pedestrian or passenger in a vehicle are all opportunities for high impact and traumatic blows to the spine.
What are the treatment stages of Spinal Cord Injury?
There are three primary treatment stages of spinal cord injury:
Stage 1: Acute Treatment
The acute stage of spinal cord injury is described as the initial treatment that occurs in the emergency room. It is when doctors make every effort to reduce/prevent shock, maintain the ability for the patient to breathe while immobilizing the neck to prevent any further damage to the spinal cord, and prevent the risk of ulcers, blood clots, bladder issues and more. At this stage, the patient’s spine is in shock which makes it more difficult to deliver a prognosis. The acute stage spans the first 72 hours of injury.
Stage 2: Rehabilitation
Spinal cord injury specialists team with the patient to structure a rehabilitation plan and provide education on dietary needs, techniques to accomplish day-to-day tasks and how to function long-term with the injuries incurred through the assistance of new technologies. The team will include a rehabilitation doctor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, dietitian, recreation therapist, rehabilitation nurse and a social worker.
Stage 3: Recovery
Recovery may be witnessed anywhere from a week to six months following the injury. Depending on the intensity of the injury and success with rehabilitation, some patients notice improvements for up to one year or longer. For more information, visit the Mayo Clinic’s online resources.
What are the treatments for Spinal Cord Injury?
The treatments involved with spinal cord injuries are sometimes different depending on how the injuries occur; however, often an injured patient will undergo:
- Surgery often plays a role in the first stage of treatment in which surgeons remove fragments of bone, fractured vertebrae or any foreign objects that may have intruded the body during the accident.
- Medications such as sedatives and sometimes special bracing equipment are used to stop the patient from moving in order to decrease inflammation of cells and site of injury, as well as align the spine to avoid any possible complications. Additional medications may be offered to aid in controlling pain, improving bladder and bowel control, as well as sexual function.
- Experimental treatments. As scientists continue to explore the injury and recovery process of spinal cord injuries, experimental treatments may be available to stop cell death, control swelling and nerve regeneration.
At what point do I contact a lawyer?
For the best interests of the person who has been injured, a personal injury lawyer should be contacted shortly after the doctor has determined that the spine has in fact been seriously injured. The costs for treatment, rehabilitation and medication are high, and the loss of wages and home expenses add up quickly. You should have an experienced lawyer begin fighting for compensation as soon as possible. Contact the team at CAM LLP for a free consultation. Our offices are based in Edmonton, but we help people injured across Alberta. If your injury impairs your ability to travel, we also offer home and hospital consultations.
Note: This post was originally published in January 2016 and has since been updated to include relevant information