How to Prevent Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries occur when there is a trauma to the spinal cord that is not caused by disease or surgery. This trauma can be caused by sports related injuries, motor vehicle accidents, falls, or violent altercations. SCIs have different types of effect on the patient’s mobility, depending on where the nerve roots and cord are injured. Results of a spinal cord injury can be mild to severe pain, paralysis, and in some cases death.
There are different levels of SCI and they are classified through an alphabetic system.
- Level A: complete SCI with no preservation of mobility or motor function.
- Level B: “incomplete” SCI with reservation of motor skills and sensory function but severely limited mobility
- Level C: incomplete SCi with reservation of motor skills, sensory functions, more than half of the key muscles have a mass lower than 3, and active mobility.
- Level D: incomplete SCI with reservation of motor skills, sensory functions, at least half of the key muscles have a mass lower than 3, and active mobility.
- Level E: normal motor skills, sensory functions, muscle mass, and mobility.
Unlike most spinal diseases and degenerative disorders, spinal cord injuries can be prevented by using simple safety precautions.
- ALWAYS wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries in the U.S. for people under 65.
- ALWAYS wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle, when participating in activities or sports such as football, or rock climbing, and when working or walking around a construction zone.
- NEVER keep firearms loaded in an exposed space. Accidental gun wounds and gun violence are a major cause of SCIs. Always keep your unloaded firearm in a safe separate, secure location from your ammunition.
- SECURE rugs and loose electrical cords, put away toys, use safety gates, and install window guards to prevent falls. Falls are the number one cause of SCIs in those 65 or older, and many children incur SCIs each year from falling down stairs or out of windows. Install grab bars and handrails if necessary.
Prevention is the best treatment for any injury, and your spinal cord is the most critical component to your mobility and motor function. Follow safety guidelines and precautions in order to protect your neck, spine, and spinal cord. “These articles are meant for general education and are not intended to diagnose, prevent or treat a specific disease. Please see Dr. Sharma for questions regarding the specific treatment of your symptoms.”
Minimally Invasive Procedure: Vertebroplasty
Continuing to keep our readers updated on minimally invasive procedures, Vertebroplasty is an outpatient procedure that treats pain from spinal fractures. Spinal fractures can be extremely excruciating and demobilizing, and vertebroplasty allows the patient a safe, speedy recovery. The technique involves injecting a special type of cement into the fracture vertebrae, which then hardens and repairs the fractures. Vertebroplasty is used to treat conditions like osteoporosis, deep vein thrombosis, and other type of vertebrae compression issues.
Vertebrae fractures don’t always occur in isolated incidents, and can be caused by a variety of degenerative conditions that affect the bones. When these bones break or erode, fragments develop and cause pain when they are rubbed against each other. In vertebroplasty, a needle known as a trocar is punctured into the back where the cement injection is implanted in the vertebrae. This injection allows the split bones or loose fragments to congeal together and regrow the bone properly.
A major benefit of this procedure is the rapid recovery time. After the vertebroplasty is completed, the doctor will likely keep the patient for observation for a few hours. Once the patient is cleared to go home, more than likely he or she will be able to walk or stand with little to no pain. While most people experience immediate pain relief after vertebroplasty, it may take up to three days for some. Majority of over the counter pain medications will be able to alleviate the discomfort. Your physician will probably schedule a follow up visit to ensure the procedure worked properly.
While there are many benefits to this treatment, we would be remiss if we failed to mention that like with all surgeries, there are some risks associated with vertebroplasty which include:
- Orthopedic Cement Leakage
- Rare occasions of bleeding and numbness
- Possibility of additional compression
- Low-Risk Allergic reaction
As always, “These articles are meant for general education and are not intended to diagnose, prevent or treat a specific disease. Please see Dr. Sharma for questions regarding the specific treatment of your symptoms.”
For more information about minimally invasive procedures or to schedule a consultation on your own, please contact us.
Treatment of spinal fractures
It is often a scary and confusing diagnosis if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a spinal fracture. In this article, we look at common types of spinal fractures and their treatments.
One of the most common spinal fracture is a compression fracture of the spinal column. This occurs in the vertebrae of the spine and can happen with a sudden force or a fall. It is most commonly seen in patients with low bone density (osteoporosis). A large majority of these fractures heal on their own with the help of a back brace and bed rest with appropriate treatment of the underlying osteoporosis. Other reasons for such fractures can be trauma or tumors. If there is a suspicion for a tumor, your spine specialist may perform a bone biopsy to examine pathology of the fracture. In some cases of compression fractures, the patients are in so much pain that they have to be hospitalized for pain control. After obtaining appropriate diagnostic tests (CT, MRI, x-rays, bone scans), the spine specialist may put some cement in the fractured bone to help speed up recovery (in a procedure called vertebroplasty) or restore the wedged fracture with a balloon and then put cement in it (kyphoplasty).
Another type of spinal fracture that is frequently seen in victims of automobile crashes is called a Burst Fracture. These fractures typically involve destruction of many aspects of the spinal column and can be unstable if left untreated. Depending on patients symptoms and diagnostic studies, these fractures may need surgery. The goal of an operation in this setting is to stabilize the spine and to relieve pressure on the spinal canal and nerve roots. There are now minimally invasive techniques that are used to stabilize these fractures. That results in a quick patient recovery, minimal loss of blood during the surgery and remarkably less pain.
Various types of cancers also have a risk of spreading to the spine causing a fracture. These types of fractures are referred to as pathological fractures. Depending on the typ of fracture and the source of the cancer cells, the treatment for these can range from non-operative treatment to complete removal of the cancer through surgery. Again, minimally invasive techniques have been very useful in this setting. By reducing the dissection of soft tissue needed to stabilize the fracture and through a smaller incision, minimally invasive techniques decrease the recovery time dramatically. This is important because this allows the patients to start chemo or radiation therapy quickly.
There are some types of cancers that are very sensitive to radiation and respond quickly to it. These remain a good target for radiation treatment even when they end up spreading to the spine. In those cases, a biopsy may be sufficient to establish the proper diagnosis followed by the appropriate radiation or chemo. Again, if a surgery is needed, the minimally invasive approach achieves all of the above objectives with minimal disruption of patient’s life.