Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

DEFINITION OF THE DISEASE

Injuries affecting the spinal cord commonly results from trauma, gunshot wounds and motor vehicle accidents. Many cases of SCI are caused by falls, sports-related injury and minor trauma. The principal risk factors for SCI include age, gender, and alcohol and drug use. Males are affected four times more often than females. Over half of the victims are 16 to 30 years of age.

The most common vertebrae involved in SCI are the 5th, 6th and 7th cervical, the 12th thoracic, and the 1st lumbar. These vertebrae are the most vulnerable because there is a greater range of mobility in the vertebral column in these areas. Damage to the spinal cord ranges from transient concussion, to contusion, laceration and compression of the cord substance, to complete transection of the cord.

Injury can be categorized as primary which is usually permanent or secondary wherein nerve fibers swell and disintegrate as a result of ischemia, hypoxia, edema, and hemorrhagic lesions. The type of injury on the other hand, refers to the extent of injury to the spinal cord itself. Incomplete spinal cord lesions are classified according to the area of spinal cord damage: central, lateral, anterior, or peripheral. A complete spinal cord injury can result in paraplegia, which is paralysis of the lower body or quadriplegia which is the paralysis of all four extremities.

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