Spinal Cord Injury - Treatment
Surgery when safe enough to proceed within 24 hours is the primary therapy. This involves removing any pressure off the spinal cord, correction of the bone alignment, stabilisation of the spine with screws, rods or plates and fusion of the vertebral bones to promote better long-term stability. This in turn allows for better bone healing and a safer post-operative rehabilitation. In addition to surgery, drugs may need to be given to increase blood pressure.
Surgery followed by radiotherapy is the current standard treatment. Surgery involves removing the tumour with or without fixation techniques (depending on spinal stability). Studies show that this provides better acute relief of symptoms. Radiotherapy is done once the wounds have healed to slow tumour growth and steroid treatment has been shown to bring about an acute relief in nerve related symptoms.
Spinal Abscesses and Epidural Hematomas:
Surgery is required to remove the abscess or the hematoma. Antibiotics are administered postoperatively for any abscess surgery.
Prognosis and RehabilitationRecovery after spinal cord compression depends on how severe is the problem. Also, heart and breathing complications also tend to affect patients. Prompt surgery and postoperative rehabilitation bring about the best results. In the case of tumours and spinal cord compression, the recovery rate depends on the type of cancer. Decompression surgery (removal of any compression of the spinal cord from the infection) in patients with epidural abscesses is most effective if done before the onset of severe weakness.
Current research is also focusing on neural prostheses and stem cell therapy in traumatic spinal cord injuries. These rehabilitation treatments, however, are experimental. Specialized rehabilitation centres that provide physical and occupational therapy are important. Spinal cord injuries can also have devastating psychological and psychosocial effects. Psychological and psychiatric therapies are usually needed. Support groups are a very positive influence for patients living with spinal cord injuries.