Spinal cord injuries are a medical emergency. Direct injury, such as cuts, can occur to the spinal cord from broken vertebrae or foreign fragments entering the spinal cord or surrounding area. Direct damage can also occur if the spinal cord is pulled, pressed sideways or compressed. This may occur if the head, neck or back are pushed back or twisted abnormally during an accident. Bleeding, fluid buildup and swelling can also occur inside or outside the spinal cord. The swelling and buildup of blood or fluid can press on the spinal cord and also damage it. After a spinal cord injury, a person’s sensory, motor, and reflex messages are affected. Severe spinal cord injuries can also affect a person’s automatic activity such as breathing and bowel or bladder activity.
Here are some facts from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center:
- There are approximately 17,500 new SCI cases in the United States each year. A new SCI case does not include those who die at the scene of the accident.
- There are approximately 285,000 people in the U.S. living with a SCI.
- The average age at injury is 42 years.
- Males account for approximately 81% of new SCI cases.
- The leading cause of SCI since 2010 is currently vehicular crashes, accounting for approximately 38.4% of injuries.
- The average length of stay in the hospital acute care unit is 11 days.
- The average length of rehabilitation stay is 35 days.
What you need to know when someone may have injured their spinal cord:
- Don't move the injured person — permanent paralysis may result.
- Call 911 or your local emergency medical assistance number.
- Keep the person still.
- Support or hold the head and neck to prevent them from moving until emergency help arrives.
- Provide basic first aid such as CPR, rescue breathing and stopping bleeding when necessary.
- Make the person comfortable, without moving the head or neck.
- Provide them with assurance that medical help is on the way.
Burke’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation program is one of the most prestigious in the country. Burke’s inpatient and outpatient SCI programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and the Joint Commission. The programs include a wide variety of specialized care: Clinical Neuropsychology, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Therapy, Rehabilitation Nursing, Respiratory Therapy, Social Work/Case Management, Therapeutic Recreation, Nutrition Education and Pastoral Care. For more information on the program, click here.