Brain & Spine Trauma/Injury Surgery

Surgery is the first and most common treatment for most people with brain tumors.

Brain and spine trauma refers to injuries or incidents that impact a person’s brain or spinal cord. Small babies may suffer injuries as a result of forcible head shaking or jerking. Injuries from falls, auto accidents, sports, or other incidents sometimes result in brain and spine trauma in youngsters.

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    Spinal Cord Injury

    The human spine is made of many bones called vertebrae. The spinal cord runs downward through a canal in the center of these bones & is a bundle of nerves that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body for movement and sensation.

    Acute spinal cord injury (SCI) is due to a traumatic injury that bruises, partially tears, or completely tears the spinal cord. SCI is a common cause of permanent disability and death in children and adults.

    Some people are at higher risk for SCI than others. The average age at the time of injury has increased over the past few decades and is currently 42 years. Most people who suffer SCIs are male. Non-Hispanic whites are at higher risk for SCI than any other ethnic group.

    Symptoms of Acute Spinal Cord Injury

    Symptoms of an acute SCI can vary widely. The location of the injury on the spinal cord determines what part of the body is affected and how severe the symptoms are.

    Right after a spinal cord injury, your spine may be in shock. This causes loss or decreased feeling, muscle movement, and reflexes. But, as swelling eases, other symptoms may appear depending on the location of the injury.

    • Quadriplegia is a loss of function in the arms and legs.
    • Paraplegia is a loss of function in the legs and lower body.

    The extent of the damage to the spinal cord determines whether the injury is complete or incomplete.

    • A complete injury means that there is no movement or feeling below the level of the injury.
    • An incomplete injury means that there is still some degree of feeling or movement below the level of the injury.

    These are the most common symptoms of acute spinal cord injuries:

    • Muscle weakness
    • Loss of voluntary muscle movement in the chest, arms, or legs
    • Breathing problems
    • Loss of feeling in the chest, arms, or legs
    • Loss of bowel and bladder function

    The symptoms of SCI may look like other medical conditions or problems.

    Frequently Asked Questions about
    Brain & Spine Trauma Injury & Surgery

    How Are Acute Spinal Cord Injuries Diagnosed?

    Acute SCI is a medical emergency. Emergency evaluation is needed anytime there is a suspected injury to the spinal cord.

    The effects of an SCI may not be clear at first. A full medical evaluation and testing are needed.

    The diagnosis of SCI starts with a physical exam and diagnostic tests. During the exam, the healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and how the injury occurred.

    A spinal cord injury can cause ongoing neurological problems that require further medical follow-up. Sometimes, surgery is needed to stabilize the spinal cord after acute SCI. Diagnostic tests may include:

    • Blood tests
    • X-ray. This test uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
    • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). An imaging test that uses X-rays and computer technology to produce detailed images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows images of any body part, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test uses large magnets, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

    Are there any Risks or Issues with Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery?

    While all surgeries have some risk, disk replacement surgery is a largely risk-free treatment. Before having surgery, you must sign a consent form outlining the risks and advantages of the procedure.

    Because disk replacement is a new type of spine surgery, there is limited data on potential long-term dangers and outcomes. Risks could include:

    • Anesthesia reactions
    • Spinal fluid leak
    • Failure to relieve symptoms
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Difficulty breathing

    Other risks may exist, depending on your unique, certain condition. Before the procedure, make sure to share any concerns you have with your surgeon.

    • Bleeding
    • Infection
    • Nerve injury
    • Voice change
    • Stroke

    How is An Acute Spinal Cord Injury Treated?

    SCI requires emergency medical attention on the scene of the accident or injury. After an injury, your head and neck will be immobilized to prevent movement. This may be very hard when you are frightened after a serious accident.

    Specific treatment for an acute spinal cord injury is based on the following:

    • Age, overall health, and medical history
    • The extent of the SCI
    • Type of SCI
    • How you respond to initial treatment
    • The expected course of the SCI
    • Your opinion or preference

    There is currently no way to repair a damaged or bruised spinal cord. But, researchers are actively seeking ways to stimulate spinal cord regeneration. The severity of the SCI and the location determine if the SCI is mild, severe, or fatal.

    Surgery is sometimes needed to evaluate the spinal cord, stabilize fractured backbones, release pressure from the injured area, and manage any other injuries that may have resulted from the accident. Your treatment may include the following:

    • Observation and medical management in the intensive care unit (ICU)
    • Medicines, such as corticosteroids (to help decrease the swelling in the spinal cord)
    • Mechanical ventilator, a breathing machine (to help you breathe)
    • Bladder catheter. A tube placed into the bladder helps drain urine into a collection bag.
    • Feeding tube (placed through the nostril to the stomach, or directly through the abdomen into the stomach, to provide extra nutrition and calories)

    Recovery from an SCI often requires long-term hospitalization and rehabilitation. An interdisciplinary team of healthcare providers, including nurses, therapists (physical, occupational, or speech), and other specialists, work to control your pain and monitor your heart function, blood pressure, body temperature, nutritional status, bladder and bowel function, and attempt to control involuntary muscle shaking (spasticity).

    What is Living with Acute Spinal Injury Like?

    Recovery from an SCI often requires long-term hospitalization and rehabilitation. Physical therapy will likely be a very important part of your rehabilitation. In this treatment, specialists will work with you to prevent muscle wasting and contractures and help you retrain other muscles to aid mobility and movement.

    Another type of therapy is occupational therapy, which enables you to learn new ways of doing everyday tasks despite your new physical limitations.

    A traumatic event that results in an SCI is devastating to both you and your family. The healthcare team will help educate your family after hospitalization and rehabilitation on how to help care for you at home and understand the specific problems that require immediate medical attention.

    You will need frequent medical evaluations and testing after hospitalization and rehabilitation to monitor your progress.

    It’s important to focus on maximizing your capabilities at home and in the community.

    You may feel sad or depressed after your injury. If this happens to you or a loved one, your healthcare provider may recommend that you see a mental health professional. Antidepressants and psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” are both available to help treat depression.

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