Often a spinal cord injury (SCI) is caused by a blow to the
spine , resulting in broken or dislocated bones of the spine (vertebrae.) The vertebrae bruise or tear the
spinal cord , damaging nerve cells.
When the nerve cells are damaged, messages
cannot travel back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body. This causes a complete or partial loss of movement (paralysis) and
Sometimes the spinal cord is damaged by
infection, bleeding into the space around the spinal cord,
spinal stenosis, or a birth defect, such as
At the hospital
A person with a potential SCI is taken to an emergency
department and then to an intensive care unit. The first priority is stabilizing
blood pressure and lung function, as well as the spine,
to prevent further damage. When a spinal cord injury is caused by a
serious accident, treatment for other injuries is often needed.
The following tests may be done right away to
help find out the extent of the injury. They may also be done routinely throughout and after you
leave rehabilitation (rehab).
A few days after the injury,
your doctor will ask you questions. Also, he or she will test not only the
strength of key muscles but also your response to light touch and pinpricks all
over your body.
Classifying a spinal cord injury
An SCI can be
classified based on how much feeling and
movement you have or where the damage occurred. When a nerve in the spinal
cord is injured, the nerve location and number are often used to describe how
much damage there is.