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Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of spinal cord injury (sci)

Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of spinal cord injury (sci)

Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of spinal cord injury (sci)

Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of spinal cord injury (sci)

Consultation and assessment

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is an injury to the spinal cord resulting in a temporary or permanent loss to its normal motor, sensory, or autonomic function.

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Incidence, age and sex

The incidence of spinal cord injury ranges from 27 to 47 cases per million population, per year. Males constitute about 80% of persons with SCI. More than 50% of all cases of SCI occur in persons aged 16-30 years.

Causes and prevention

Road traffic accidents remain the leading cause of spinal cord injuries worldwide. The other causes include falls, violence and sports injuries. A sudden, traumatic blow to the spine fractures or dislocates vertebrae and injures the cord. For prevention, it should be assumed that every trauma patient has a spinal injury until proven otherwise and all assessment and procedures must be performed with full spinal immobilization.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms depend on the level and extent of injury. In a conscious patient, spinal injury can be excluded if: there is no pain, palpation of the spine is non-tender, neurological examination is normal and there is a pain-free range of movement.

The entire spine must be palpated and the overlying skin inspected. Motor function is assessed using a grading system (0-5) and sensory function is assessed using the dermatome map. A rectal examination is performed to assess anal tone, voluntary anal contraction and per anal sensation. Preservation of the perianal sensation indicates an incomplete cord injury and suggests that there should at least be some recovery.

Diagnostic imaging: 85% of significant spinal injuries will be seen on the standard lateral cervical spine radiograph recommended at the resuscitation of polytraumatised patients. Significant loss of vertebral body height, sagittal deformity and widening of the interpedicular distance (on the anterioposterior view) may signify an unstable injury of a vertebra.

CT scanning remains the most sensitive imaging modality in spinal trauma. Complex fracture patterns can be understood and an accurate assessment of spinal canal compromise by bony fragments can be made. Sagittal reconstruction is an important modality in assessing posterior column stability.MRI is best at visualizing the soft – tissue elements of the spine. It is possible to see spinal cord haemorrhage and epidural and pre-vertebral haematomas.

Complications

Spinal cord injury can lead to loss of motor function like paraplegia or quadriplegia as well as loss of sensory and autonomic function. The leading causes of death in patients following SCI are pneumonia and other respiratory conditions.

Submit a request for further information, a quotation or indicative cost. Your enquiry will be forwarded to up to 3 private healthcare providers. They will respond directly with further information.

Get a quote for spinal cord injury (SCI) treatment >

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