Spinal Cord Injury in Vehicular Crash Patients

medical center hialeah

An injury to the spinal cord is a dreaded complication of a vehicular crash. The more severe the injury, the poorer the prognosis. Furthermore, patients who survive a crash and sustain a spinal cord injury (SCI) have to deal with sensory and motor problems later on. Programs like physical therapy in Hialeah can help the patient regain his/her senses and motor control through our specialized rehabilitation program.

Nature of SCI

Research has shown that the United States has the highest prevalence of spinal cord injuries. In fact, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association has revealed that approximately 450,000 Americans are living with SCI and its complications. This number grows at an alarming rate, as 11,000 SCI cases occur annually in the U.S. alone.

During a vehicular crash, the sudden deceleration and impact can forcefully whip your neck in a rapid forward and backward movement. This may result in a whiplash injury, the tearing of the muscles and tendons in your neck, or a traumatic injury to the cervical spine and spinal cord. To prevent further damage, the neck should be immobilized and secured with a cervical collar.

Auto accidents are the most common cause of SCI and the prognosis is strongly influenced by the severity of the injury and the availability of high-quality medical care post-accident. If the emergency medical personnel suspects SCI, proper immobilization measures are necessary to prevent further injury before transporting the patient to the nearest emergency department.

pt hialeah

The spinal cord in a nutshell

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve fibers that extends from the base of the brainstem all the way to the lumbar region near the waist. This 18-inch tubular structure is being protected by the spine, a column of 33 irregular bones (vertebrae).

The spinal cord transmits nerve impulses and serves as the medium of communication between the brain and the body. This way, your brain can control the movement of your muscles and your senses can transmit specific sensory signals for your brain to interpret such as pain, pressure, heat, and cold.

Damage to the spinal cord can diminish your sensation and your ability to do voluntary muscle movements.

If the damage is inflicted on the cervical (neck) area of the spinal cord, it causes loss of muscle strength and control from the neck down, including all four extremities (tetraplegia).

On the other hand, if the damage occurs in the thoracic (chest) or lumbar (waist) area of the spinal cord, it results in paralysis from the waist down, including the lower extremities (paraplegia).

Who is at risk?

Spinal cord injuries often result from accidents, such as a vehicular crash and falling from a significant height. However, the following factors increase your risk of sustaining SCI:

  • Age. Older adults (people over 65 years old) have more brittle bones than people in the younger age group. On the other hand, people who are between ages 16 and 30 have higher chances of suffering from traumatic SCI.
  • Sex. Males account for a majority (81.2%) of all SCI cases.
  • History of a musculoskeletal disorder. Bones or joint disorders, such as osteoporosis and arthritis can increase your risk of sustaining SCI.
  • Risky behavior. Not following the proper precautions and safety measures when diving, playing sports, and driving are examples of risky behaviors that may lead to accidents and SCI.

Signs and symptoms of SCI

If there is a loss of organ function below the level of injury, health care providers may suspect SCI. Following a vehicular crash, the patient is observed for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Loss of muscle control over any body part (can be partial or complete)
  • Severe pain in the head, neck, or back
  • Loss of sensation in the hands or feet
  • Balance and walking difficulty
  • Tightness, pain, or pressure in the chest
  • Difficulty of breathing after the injury
  • Lumps or deformities in the head or spine
auto injury clinic hialeah

Treatment of SCI

Aside from a thorough physical examination, the patient has to undergo radiologic evaluations, such as an X-ray, MRI, and a CT scan, to identify the extent and severity of the injury. Surgery is indicated for patients who have a herniated disc, blood clot, and spine deformity. The patient will have to spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) until he/she is stabilized.

Once stable, patients are directed to rehabilitation facilities for counseling, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Emotional support is also essential to boost the patient’s morale for a speedy recovery.

Supportive care and rehabilitation at physical therapy in Hialeah can help patients regain control of their motor movements through specialized rehab programs that are customised to each patient’s needs. We accept walk-in clients as well as online appointments – whichever is more convenient for you. For inquiries, call us at (305) 200-1225.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.