Injuries to the spine, spinal cord and surrounding structures occur when they are subject to excessive loads or a traumatic event such as a fall or motor vehicle crash.
Spinal fractures are critical injuries that require emergency and specialised treatment. Trauma, tumours and osteoporosis can all cause spinal fractures. They they can occur in the cervical (neck), thoracic (midback) and lumbar (lower back).
Spinal fractures can range in severity and can involve trauma to the spinal cord and nerves. In Australia, about 350 to 400 people experience a spinal cord injury each year, according to the Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week, with a total 12,000 people living with one.
If you experience spinal trauma, it is important that emergency medical specialists such as paramedics assist you to prevent any potential damage from worsening or becoming permanent.
How is spinal trauma treated?
Some fractures and spinal cord injuries are managed non-operatively and others require surgical intervention. Occasionally there may be equipoise and a surgeon may need to advise the best treatment for that particular circumstance.
Most spinal cord damage results from traumatic events such as falls and car crashes. However, a blood clot or herniated disc may also compress the spinal cord. A neurosurgeon can help alleviate this pressure by performing surgery that can stop further damage from occurring.
At present, there is no cure for spinal cord injuries. However, a neurosurgeon can stabilise the spine to prevent further damage.
While spinal cord injuries currently result in permanent damage, this field is an exciting area of research in which experts are making significant advances. For example, spinal cord injury studies are indicating that the anti-glutamate medicine riluzole may be a promising method to reduce the effects of this type of injury.
Any medical advice, diagnoses or treatment must be administered by your healthcare provider. You should make decisions about your healthcare after you have consulted with a qualified medical physician or surgeon.
If you believe you may have a medical emergency, call 000 (triple zero) immediately.
Image by Injury Map under a Creative Commons license.