Damage occurs to the spine or nerves leads to spinal cord causes spinal cord injury. It causes considerable changes in strength, sensation, and other body functions. The spinal cord is very fragile and sensitive to injury, and it does not have the ability to repair itself if it is damaged. Spinal cord injuries are categorized as complete or incomplete. A complete loss of sensation and muscle function in the body below the injury is classified as complete spinal cord injury. On the other hand, an incomplete spinal cord injury involves some remaining functioning of body parts below the injury site. Quadriplegia is an injury to the upper portion of the spinal cord, where paralysis of both arms and legs occur. Paraplegia is injury to the lower part of the spinal cord, where paralysis of both legs occur.
The common types of spinal cord injuries include:
- Anterior cord syndrome that occurs in the front of the spinal cord, damaging the motor and sensory pathways. In this case, some sensation is retained but movement is not expectable.
- Central cord syndrome occurs when damage in the nerves that carry signals from the brain to the spinal cord. Where it can lead to loss of fine motor skills, paralysis of the arms and partial impairment. Loss of bowel or bladder control and sexual dysfunction are also a result of this syndrome.
- Brown-Sequard syndrome is a damage to one side of the spinal cord leading to dysfunction of organs and limbs on one side of the human body.
- Tetraplegia is the damage to the cervical spinal cord producing varying degrees of paralysis of all limbs.
- Triplegia leads to loss in sensation and movement in one arm and both legs.
Pathophysiology of a Spinal Cord Injury
What are the Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury
The ability to control the limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on the location of the injury on the spinal cord and the severity of the injury. A few of the signs and symptoms are mentioned below:
- Loss of movement
- Loss or altered sensation
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Exaggerated reflex activities
- Changes in sexual functions
- Pain or an intense stinging sensation in the spinal cord
- Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from the lungs
- Extreme back pain or pressure in the neck or head
- Numbness, and loss of sensation in the limbs and toes
- Difficulty with balance and walking
What are the Causes of Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries are the result of damage to the spinal cord or ligaments or disks of the spinal column. A spinal cord injury may also occur due to sudden, traumatic injury to the spine that compresses or dislocates the vertebrae. Individuals between 16 and 30 years of age are prone to traumatic spinal cord injuries. Elderly people fall often injuring their spinal column. Sportsmen playing without proper safety gear end up having spinal cord injuries. Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries.
How is Spinal Cord Injury Prevented
The following are some tips to prevent a spinal cord injury:
- Drive safely by wearing seat belts and by driving at normal speed
- Prevent falls by using nonslip mats
- Use recommended safety gear while sporting
How is Spinal Cord Injury Diagnosed?
A careful examination and testing for sensory function and movement helps a doctor diagnose a spinal cord injury. Some other tests include:
- X-rays reveal vertebral problems, fractures, and degenerative changes in the spine
- CT scan
- MRI helps in identifying herniated disks, blood clots, or other masses that compresses the spinal cord
What is the Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury
Any damage done to the spinal cord cannot be reversed. Spinal cord injury treatment helps prevent further injury, thereby empowering patients return to an active and productive life.
Traction is given to stabilize the damaged spine and to bring the spine into proper alignment. A rigid neck collar is also recommended.
Surgery is performed to remove fragments of bones, foreign objects, herniated disks, or fractured vertebrae.
Stem Cells Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury
The use of mesenchymal stem cells have bought major changes in the way spinal cord injuries have been treated. A lot of improvements in spinal cord injury patients were observed after stem cell therapy. The stem cells when infused into the body, repopulate themselves at the damaged areas and differentiate into lost neurons. Stem cells therapy promotes axonal growth and remyelination of axons. It stops neuronal degeneration and stimulate angiogenesis. This improves motor as well as sensory functions of the spinal cord. It has been observed that the bladder and/or bowel function, sexual function, and muscle control have improved post treatment.