Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when a traumatic event results in damage to cells in the spinal cord or severs the nerve tracts that relay signals up and down the spinal cord. The most common types of spinal cord injury include:

*Contusion (bruising of the spinal cord)
*Compression (caused by pressure on the spinal cord)

Other types of spinal cord injury include lacerations (severing or tearing of nerve fibers) and central cord syndrome (specific damage to the cervical region of the spinal cord).

There is a wide variety of spinal injuries that can cause spinal cord trauma. These include, but are not limited to, traffic accidents, sports-related injuries, work-related mishaps, hunting injuries involving firearms, physical battery, and virtually any sudden and severe shock to the spinal cord. In fact, even a relatively minor injury can result in spinal cord trauma, especially if the spinal cord is compressed or unstable.

The most common causes of serious spinal cord injury occur following trauma. In this situation, the bones of the spine may fracture or the discs may be dislodged leading to trauma to the delicate spinal cord that is surrounded by the bone and discs of the spine.

Fluid accumulation, bleeding, and swelling can occur either inside or outside the spinal cord (but still within the spinal canal). This accumulation of fluid or blood can damage the spinal cord through compression.

Spinal cord injuries occur in approximately 12,000 to 15,000 people per year in the U.S. About 10,000 of these people are permanently paralyzed, and many of the rest die as a result of their injuries. Young, healthy, and active males between the ages of 15 and 35 are most often the victims of spinal cord trauma.

Only about five percent of spinal cord injuries occur in children. The fatality rate is higher with pediatric spine injuries.

Spinal cord injuries in older individuals are more likely to occur due to spines weakened by osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. In addition, those patients may have problems with balance problems due to illness or medication, or clumsiness (from the after effects of a stroke, for instance) and thus may be significantly more susceptible.

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