What Causes Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal cord injury is a serious trauma that causes long-term and major effects on the person. The spinal cord is an organ consisting of nerve tissue located in the vertebrae from the neck to our waist. Nerves coming out of the spinal cord go to the arms, trunk, internal organs and legs and control the functions of the body. It provides communication between the brain and the body. In spinal cord injury, problems are seen due to the interruption of this communication.

Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

Most spinal cord injuries are due to traumatic events. Traffic accidents, falls from height, jumping into shallow water and hitting the bottom, gunshot injuries, sports injuries are the most common causes of traumatic spinal cord injuries.

Traffic accidents are a leading cause of both death and disability worldwide. To reduce the risk of spinal cord or brain damage in a traffic accident, both the driver and passengers must wear seat belts. Motorcycle and bicycle users must use helmets. Pedestrians are also at risk. Paying attention to the phone while walking on the road and crossing the street increases the rate of such accidents. Falls may include falling from a ladder, falling from a height, having an epileptic seizure, or falling due to fainting. Young people as well as the elderly are at risk. Diving in shallow water can have very dramatic consequences. Never head dive into water of unknown depth. Falling objects on the head in occupational accidents can cause spinal cord injury. Those in the construction site should use a hard hat. Lead in violence, The spinal cord can be injured as a result of a sharp object injury or when one person pushes another person during a fight and causes them to fall. Spinal cord injuries have also been reported in sports such as football, skiing, snowboarding, and surfing.

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There is also a risk of injury during spine surgeries. Scoliosis surgeries, neck hernia surgeries, herniated disc surgeries carry varying degrees of risk of spinal cord injury.

Any cause that causes narrowing of the spinal canal can lead to damage by compression of the spinal cord. Tumor, spinal fracture (due to trauma or osteoporosis), hernia, calcification are the main problems that cause narrowing of the spinal canal.

Inflammation of the spinal cord (for example, transverse myelitis ) can lead to spinal cord injury.

Impairment of the blood circulation of the spinal cord can cause the death of nerve tissue. This risk is taken into consideration in back surgeries and interventions involving the aorta, where the vessels feeding the spinal cord come out. Excessive blood loss and intravascular clot formation can also impair spinal cord circulation.

Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms

The symptoms that may indicate a spinal cord injury in a person who has experienced one of the traumas mentioned above are as follows:

  • Inability to move arms and/or legs
  • Inability to feel arms and/or legs
  • Numbness radiating to the arms and/or legs
  • Weakness in breathing, shortness of breath
  • Pain, pressure and stiffness in the neck, back or waist
  • Inability or difficulty walking
  • Abnormal position of the head
  • Loss of urine sensation and stool control

What to Do in Suspected Spinal Cord Injury?

If a spinal cord injury is suspected, call 112 immediately. The injured person should not be moved unless there is a vital necessity. Interventions such as moving the head and removing a helmet can lead to increased spinal cord damage. Even if the person feels good and wants to get up and walk, support them to stay in the same position until the ambulance arrives. If there is no breathing, basic life support (artificial respiration and heart massage) is required. If there is a suspicion of spinal cord injury, do not move the person’s head back during CPR, instead open the airway by pulling the chin forward. When the ambulance arrives, it ensures that the patient is properly transported to the hospital with a neck brace and similar fixing devices.

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