Spinal Cord Injuries
Causes of spinal cord injuries include motor vehicle accidents (39%), acts of violence (14%), falls (30%), and sports (most of these are from diving accidents). Summer is the worst time for spinal cord injuries, with July having the highest incidence in the US. They happen more frequently on weekends and at nights. Most people who get spinal cord injuries are male (82%) and the median age at the time of injury is 31.7 years. Alcohol plays a big role in SCI; it is involved in cause of twenty five percent of cases. The National Spinal Cord Statistical Center estimates 12,000 Americans suffer SCI every year and 270,000 Americans are living with some form of SCI.
Preexisting spinal disease can cause some people to be more susceptible to getting SCI. These include:
- Atlantoaxial instability
- Cervical spondylosis
- Congenital conditions
- Spinal Arthropathies
There are several types of sci or spinal cord injury treatment. Even though SCI is often not curable, medicine can lessen the burden on the body and supportive care can lessen complications. Like most injuries, SCIs can be temporary or permanent, but unfortunately most are permanent and leave the patent with a disability.
Scientists are engaged in exciting research to develop SCI therapies, including new medications, using the patient’s own white blood cells (macrophages), and transplantation of amniotic or embryonic cells into the injured area. While these treatments are not yet available for the treatment of SCI patients, on-going progress gives hope to those with SCI and their families.
Life expectancy is lower for SCI patients. A lot of deaths happen in the first year as the body struggles to adjust. For people who get past the first year, life expectancy averages 90% that of the non-SCI patients. The most common causes of death are respiratory ailments and cardiovascular illnesses. Injuries above the T6 level are often complicated by autonomic dysreflexia. This condition usually appears within a year of the injury and causes many cardiovascular problems.
High-up spinal cord injuries cause respiratory problems. Impaired cough makes it difficult to discharge lung secretions so patients are at increased risk for pneumonia. Pulmonary embolism - caused by a blood clot in the main artery of the lung - is very dangerous and unfortunately common. Neurogenic bladder means the SCI patient has trouble storing and discharging urine.
About 30% of spinal cord injuries are incomplete and the patient may have movement capabilities below the injury point. The most common type of incomplete SCI is central cord syndrome, Many people with this syndrome can walk with some competence.
Osteoporosis in SCI patients
Bones in the body are constantly in a process of renewal. The mineral content is being re-absorped into the bloodstream and new mineral is being deposited. When the mineral content and bone density declines over time, the person is diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is common in SCI patients. Although scientists aren’t sure why osteoporosis happens, sedentary behavior appears to contribute to the onset. SCI patients obviously do not move their paralyzed areas as much as other people. The nervous system may also play a part in osteoporosis.
SCI patients’ osteoporosis develops differently from other patients’. The leg bones have rapid loss of minerals while the spinal cord is less affected. Patients with quadriparesis also lose bone mass in their arms. Heterotopic ossification is the deposition of bone around peripheral joints. This happens very frequently and is a cause of degraded quality of life in SCI patients.