HealthFirst – Spinal cord injuries

Published: August 30, 2007  |  Source: abclocal.go.com
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picture201UNDATED (WJRT) – When it comes to getting people moving again after spinal injuries, timing may be key.

HealthFirst reporter Leslie LoBue says new research shows that when a patient has surgery could play a big role in the quality of recovery.

Timing can impact how much movement in the hands, fingers or even your limbs will come back after spinal cord surgery.

For Bruce Brady, days like these are nothing short of a miracle. Last march, he nearly died when he skied into a cedar fence. “At that point there, I could not feel anything. I couldn’t move my head. I could not wiggle my toes, wiggle my fingers.”

Bruce was paralyzed from the neck down. “I couldn’t feel anything, anywhere.”

Neurosurgeon Michael Fehlings says the initial impact doesn’t cause all the damage in spinal cord injuries. There are also secondary injuries that come from inflammation and compression on the spine. “This involves the death of nerve cells that might otherwise be initially potentially alive or salvageable after the initial injury.”

Surgery is often done to fix the spine and relieve pressure. Fehlings is leading a study to find the best time to do that surgery. “It appears that earlier is indeed better than later.”

One study shows the most common time for surgery is five days or more after an injury. But Fehlings’ research shows surgery within 24 hours can prevent more serious damage and lead to better outcomes.

“We are seeing that some people are walking away from injuries where they would normally not be able to walk away.”

Bruce had surgery within 24 hours of arriving at the hospital. Today, he’s active, with a new perspective. “I live my life a little bit humbled, that is for sure.”

He hopes more people with injuries will be able to walk in his footsteps.

The nuts and bolts of this is that these researchers think surgery as close to 24 hours after injury is best, as long as a patient is stable.

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By Leslie LoBue