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Spinal Cord Injury Answers

Answers to frequently asked Questions about Spinal Cord Injury

How does spinal cord injury affect the skin?

Published: September 21, 2005

Spinal cord injury reduces or eliminates skin sensation in dermatomes below the injury site. Because people cannot feel or move, they may sit or lie for long times on certain parts of their body. Pressure impedes blood flow in the skin. Due to muscle atrophy, the normal tissue padding that cushions the butt may be reduced. Absence of sensation, loss of muscle padding, and long periods of pressure can lead to skin breakdown and development of pressure sores or decubiti. Decubiti are potentially life threatening but preventable. Continue Reading »

What happens to the bladder, bowel, and sexual function?

Published: September 19, 2005

The spinal cord also carries “autonomic” signals that control blood pressure, blood flow, breathing, sweating, bowel, bladder, sexual, and other autonomic functions.

• Bladder Paralysis and Spasticity. Spinal cord injury paralyzes the bladder. The bladder must be catheterized to drain urine. Indwelling catheters (such as a foley catheter inserted through the urethra) have a high risk of infections. Sterile intermittent catheterization is recommended but may be complicated by bladder spasticity or spontaneous contractions of the bladder. Bladder contractions can push urine into the kidney and this may lead to kidney damage. Continue Reading »

Has the spinal cord been decompressed?

Published: September 17, 2005

The spinal cord injury usually results from fracture of vertebral bones that compress the spinal cord. Continued spinal cord compression increases tissue damage and reduces functional recovery. If the neck or cervical segments are fractured, traction may straighten out and decompress the vertebral column. Chest or thoracic fractures cannot be decompressed by traction. Surgery may be necessary to decompress and stabilize the spinal cord. Continue Reading »

How is spinal cord injury classified?

Published: September 17, 2005

In 1990, the American Spinal Cord Injury Association (ASIA) proposed a uniform classification system that had five categories, defined in Table 1. Motor level is defined as the level at which the key muscle innervated by the segment has at least 3/5 of its normal strength. Continue Reading »

How many spinal cord injuries occur in the U.S. each year?

Published: September 13, 2005

Studies suggest the incidence rate of SCI is about 40 cases per million population, excluding those who die at the scene of the accident. Given a current United States population of approximately 281.4 million persons, this means that over 11,000 new cases occur each year. Continue Reading »

Whats leading cause of death?

Published: August 22, 2005

In years past, the leading cause of death among persons with SCI was renal failure. Today, however, significant advances in urologic management have resulted in dramatic shifts in the leading causes of death. Persons enrolled in the National SCI Database since its inception in 1973 have now been followed for 27 years after injury.

During that time, the causes of death that appear to have the greatest impact on reduced life expectancy for this population are pneumonia, pulmonary emboli and septicemia. Continue Reading »

What is a Stem Cell?

Published: August 18, 2005

All mammals begin as two cells — sperm and egg — that combine into a single cell. This single cell will divide exponentially into specialized cells making up various organs and systems — all the tissues of a new organism.

Simply put, a stem cell is an immature cell that can become a different cell, or perhaps become one of many different cells.

Most stem cells also can renew themselves — divide — indefinitely. These two characteristics are what present a new pathway to repairing damage to the human body caused by trauma, degeneration and disease.

Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

Published: July 16, 2005

The most common causes of spinal cord injury are car and other motor vehicle collisions (54.7%), falls (17.7%), and other medical conditions and sports injuries (27.6%).

The injury is usually caused by sudden impact, which crushes the spine and cord. Continue Reading »

What happens when nerve fibers regrow?

Published: July 11, 2005

The nerve cell body remains intact, and only the “sending” or “receiving” fibers have to regrow as longer extensions from the nerve cell body.

The peripheral nerves, outside the brain and spinal cord can do this quite easily. But within the brain and spinal cord there is much impediment to such regrowth. Continue Reading »

What is the phrenic nerve and where is it situated?

Published: July 9, 2005

The phrenic nerve goes from the spinal cord to the diaphragm, a large muscle at the bottom of your chest that mediates breathing activity.

Axons of the phrenic nerve come from the phrenic nucleus situated at spinal cervical segments C3, C4, and C5.

Most of the axons About 75% of people have an accessory phrenic branch that comes from C5 and even C6. The sternocleidomastoid muscle is the long muscle that goes from the angle of your jaw to the head of clavicle, the long horizontal bone that goes from your shoulder to the front base of your neck. Continue Reading »