What is a spinal cord injury?
The bone used for this procedure is usually taken from another bone in the body, most often from the hip. This does not damage the hip and makes the fusion more stable. If needed, a small surgery on the hip will be performed at the same time as the spine surgery.
It is very common to need a cervical collar or other brace after surgery. The brace keeps you from putting stress on the healing muscles and bones. It will allow you to start getting out of bed about a day after surgery. If needed, physical and occupational therapists will also be able to work with you.
Spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord that results in a loss of function such as mobility or feeling. Frequent causes of damage are trauma (car accident, falls, diving etc.) or disease (polio, spina bifida, Friedreich’s Ataxia etc.).
Quadriplegia (also referred to as tetraplagia) is loss of function below the neck.
Paraplegia is loss of function below the chest.
A fusion procedure involves attaching metal screws, plates or other devices to the bones of the spine to help keep them properly aligned. This is usually done when two or more of the spinal bones, also called vertebrae, have been injured. Small pieces of bone may also be attached to the injured bones to help them fuse into one solid piece.
The spinal cord does not have to be severed in order for a loss of functioning to occur. In fact, in most people with spinal cord injury, the spinal cord is intact, but the damage due to compression or bruising to it results in loss of functioning. Spinal cord injury is very different from back injuries such as ruptured disks, spinal stenosis or pinched nerves.
A person can “break their back or neck” yet not sustain a spinal cord injury if only the bones around the spinal cord (the vertebrae) are damaged, but the spinal cord is not affected. In these situations, the individual may not experience paralysis if bone damage is treated correctly.
What is the spinal cord and the vertabrae?
The adult spinal cord is about 50 centimetres long and extends from the base of the brain to about the waist. It is the major bundle of nerves that carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Nerves within the spinal cord (upper motor neurons) carry messages back and forth from the brain to the spinal nerves along the spinal tract. Lower motor neurons branch out from the spinal cord to the other parts of the body, carrying sensations (from the skin and other body parts and organs to the brain) and instructions (to the various body parts to initiate actions such as muscle movement).
Injury to the spinal cord causes loss of function of the nerves, limbs and organs below the site of the injury.
The spinal cord lies within vertebrae. These rings of bones are together called the spinal column or back bone. In general, the higher in the spinal column an injury occurs, the more dysfunction a person will experience.
There are seven vertebrae in the neck—the Cervical Vertebrae—C1 (at the top) to C7. Injury in this region usually causes loss of function to the arms and legs (quadriplegia or tetraplegia).
There are twelve Thoracic Vertebrae. The highest (T1) is where the top rib attaches. Injury to the thoracic region affects the chest and the legs.
Between the thoracic vertebrae and the pelvis lie the 5 Lumbar Vertebrae. The 5 Sacral Vertebrae run from the pelvis to the end of the spinal column. Injury to nerves in the lumbar and sacral vertebrae generally results in loss of functioning in the hips and legs.
Loss of function in the chest, hips and legs is Paraplegia.
What are the types of spinal cord injury?
Quadraplegia occurs in case of any kind of physical trauma that crushes and compresses the vertebrae in the neck. This type of apine injury can cause irreversible damage at the cervical level of the spinal cord and below. This type of spinal cord injury may even cause paralysis of most of the body including the arms and legs.
Paraplegia occurs mostly in cases of car or bike accidents. In this type of spine injury the middle back i.e. thoracic or lumbar spine
Surgery to stabilize the spine can be performed from the back of the spine, called posterior spine surgery, or from the front of the spine, called anterior spine surgery. In some cases, both approaches may be needed, usually in two separate operations.