A person with a spinal cord injury has a long road to recovery ahead of them. In almost all cases, the immediate medical care has a huge impact on the amount of recovery the person will be able to experience. In the first hours and days after the accident, a lot of things will go on.
One of the primary concerns when the person first comes into contact with medical personnel is making sure they are stabilized. This includes a variety of considerations that depend on the specific circumstances.
Keeping the spinal column stabilized
First responders will usually use a neck collar and a firm backboard to ensure that the person's spine doesn't shift and move that much. This is important because any movement can exacerbate the injury to the spinal cord in a way that harms the patient even more.
Once the patient gets to the hospital, the hospital staff will do testing to determine whether those preventative measures must be continued. This usually includes imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. The patient may need more than one of these to provide an accurate glimpse into what is going on with the spinal cord.
Methods of preventing more damage
There is a chance that the patient will need to be placed in traction. They might be sedated so that they aren't feeling pain during the process. They may receive medications that treat or prevent infection, help alleviate pain and work to reduce inflammation and swelling. They may be given by mouth, but most are given via an intravenous catheter or an injection.
Some patients go through therapeutic hypothermia to bolster healing. This is a neuroprotective method that can reduce the damage that the injury causes. Hospitals might have cooling blankets to use. Others use ice packs or fans. A more invasive option is to use catheters filled with cooled saline to lower the body's temperature.
After the immediate stabilization occurs, the medical staff can determine the long-term treatment plan for the patient. This will likely involve several different treatments, including therapy, medications and surgery. A good portion of the recovery is learning how to handle daily tasks; however, people who have higher level injuries or more severe injuries might never recover fully. In this case, they will have to learn adaptive methods that can help them to live.