Prevention

Published: May 2, 2005  |  Source: spinalcord.org
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A sixteen year old was the front seat passenger with her young, inexperienced boyfriend John at the wheel. They were on their way home from a friend’s party where John had had a few drinks. Just a few streets from home, he lost control of the car coming round a corner and skidded into a power pole. Alice’s head was whipped back and forth, damaging her spinal cord and leaving her a quadriplegic. She copes, but would give anything not to have accepted that lift.

Another Young Man was just twenty years old when he was driving to work one wet, winters day. Ten minutes late, he was driving faster than he knew he should have been on the slippery roads, when he skidded out of control. Without a seatbelt, Rupert was thrown through the windscreen and landed heavily on his back. He spent the next seven months in hospital adjusting to life as a Paraplegic, but is certain that had he been wearing a seatbelt, he would be walking today.

Another thirteen-year-old was having fun with friends at the lake on his Uncle’s farm. After walking along the banks from their usual swimming spot, he came across a small mound of rocks about a metre off the ground. Ready for another swim, Mark climbed up and dived into the water landing on some hidden rocks. He was dragged from the water and awoke in the Austin Hospital Spinal Unit to the shattering news that he was a quadriplegic.

  1. Many spinal cord injuries can be prevented by using safe practices at work and at play.
  2. Follow correct safety procedures and use protective equipment in the workplace.
  3. Regular exercise, good posture and lifting heavy objects in the right way (letting your leg muscles do most of the work) all help prevent spinal injuries.
  4. In recreation, warm up thoroughly and use appropriate techniques and equipment when playing sports.
  5. Check the depth of water before diving in, and examine the general area for any obstacles before diving and skiing.
  6. When on the roads, practice defensive driving and always wear a seatbelt. Never drink alcohol or take drugs and drive and don’t travel in a vehicle that is being driven by a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  7. Remember to wear an approved helmet when bike riding, skateboarding, roller-blading and motorbike or trail-bike riding.
  8. Don’t take unnecessary risks when horse riding, snow or water skiing, rock climbing, hang-gliding or trampolining.

In all first aid care, the carer must take the following steps immediately:

If there is a threat to the patient’s life, treat the dangers, Airway, Breathing and Circulation first.

DANGER: If present, remove the danger or remove the patient from the dangerous Environment.
RESPONSE: Check the patient’s conscious state.
AIRWAY: Ensure the patient’s airway is clear – remove vomit, blood, dentures, etc.
BREATHING: Ensure the patient is breathing.
CIRCULATION: Ensure that the patient’s heart is beating and if there is major external bleeding, control the bleeding by direct pressure.
REMEMBER: Following an accident, prevent secondary spinal injury by NOT MOVING THE PATIENT if spinal injuries are suspected UNLESS there is a life threatening reason to do so (see above). Life threat takes precedence over possible spinal injuries.

  • DO NOT MOVE THE PATIENT
  • ADVISE OTHERS NOT TO MOVE THE PATIENT
  • SEND SOMEONE TO CALL 911 AND ASK FOR AN AMBULANCE TO ATTEND
  • REASSURE THE PATIENT
  • TRY AND FIND OUT THE PATIENTS NAME AND ADDRESS
  • WAIT WITH THE PATIENT FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE AMBULANCE OFFICERS

It is more common for spinal injuries to occur without life threat.

Possible spinal injury should be assumed in the following cases

  • Any car accident at greater than 45mph.
  • Any pedestrian hit by a car at greater than 18mph.
  • Any car accident where there is a car rollover or where a passenger has been thrown from the vehicle.
  • Any significant fall, including falls in the elderly.
  • Any shallow water diving or surfing accident.
  • Following helmet damage from a motorcycle accident.
  • Any unconscious trauma patient or significant neck or head injury.
  • Any penetrating injuries e.g. Gunshot wound to the spinal region.
  • Any trauma to the neck and back if associated with past spinal disease.
  • Any physical signs and symptoms associated with the spine e.g. the position the patient was found in, pain or tenderness around the spinal area.