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Spinal cord injury Print

The spinal cord is a nerve cord protected by the spine and running from the base of the brain to the lumbar area. The spinal nerves come out of the spinal cord along its length and, depending on the spinal site they emerge from, they are called cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral nerves.

The spinal cord is a part of the central nervous system. It is the main pathway for the brain to receive information from the rest of the body and to send away movement regulating signals.

A break in the spinal cord paralyses voluntary mobility, benumbs below the affected area and also leads to losing control over toileting and bowel movements. It results in sexual and fertility disorders and derangements in the vegetative nervous system as well as risks other complications (pressure sores, spasticity, renal disease, etc.).

Esquema cat.jpg The injury may follow trauma (occupational, sports and traffic or casual accidents), a disease (a tumour, an infection, a vascular disease, etc.) or it could be congenital (such as spina bifida). The injury will be more or less severe depending on whether it is complete or partial and on the injured site.

Disrupted cervical nerve pathways result in TETRAPLEGIA. This involves a loss or decrease in sensation and/or voluntary movement of all four limbs and the entire trunk.

Affected thoracic and lumbar nerves result in PARAPLEGIA. This involves absence of sensation and/or complete or partial paralysis of the lower limbs and of the trunk below the injury.

The effects of Conus Medullaris and Cauda Equina, injuries on sensation and voluntary movements are less severe. Patients can still walk in most cases. Loss of control over toileting is the main consequence of this type of injury.

The consequences of a spinal injury are currently irreversible. This is due to the fact that the spinal cord does not regenerate. In addition, its complexity and structure make surgical repair impossible with current techniques. Despite this, research is being carried out worldwide to find a future cure. Currently, great efforts are being made in the field of prevention. New surgical and technological procedures are being developed to improve the patients’ prognosis and quality of life.Comprehensive rehabilitation of patients in a specialized hospital is the only present choice for treating these patients appropriately.

The majority of spinal injuries are sudden and result from trauma. Approximately half of all cases are caused by traffic accidents. The next most common cause of spinal injury is occupational and sports accidents. Around 25% of all cases are caused by tumours and infectious or vascular diseases. This type of injury prevails in young people.



• INCIDENCE: The incidence of traumatic spinal injury (SI) in Spain is estimated to be around 2,5 per 100,000 inhabitants per year (approximately 1,000 people per year). The incidence of medical SI (from vascular or infectious diseases or from a tumour) approximately accounts for 25% of the spinal injuries caused by trauma. In Catalonia between 140 and 160 new cases of spinal injury are reported every year. The prevalence of such an injury is estimated at 500 people per million inhabitants.

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Darrera actualització: 06/03/2015

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