Spinal Cord Injury

An average of 17,000 new spinal cord injuries occur in the U.S. every year, many the result of traffic accidents. All of those involved in the aftermath of the injury can find themselves feeling disoriented and shocked by the speed at which life has dramatically changed.

We understand how difficult situations like these can be for all involved—the injured person, family and friends—and we strive to offer compassionate care and thorough communication during initial conversations and throughout treatment.

Overview

Any injury to the spinal cord and the protective bones that surround it is called an SCI, or spinal cord injury. The location of the injury and its severity determine what parts of the body are affected. Different kinds of nerve damage and various levels of paralysis may be the result of an SCI. In some cases, the results of the injury are irreversible—but not in all.

Understanding the Spine

The spine gives us the strength and support we need to sit and stand up. It also holds the nerves that allow our brain to communicate with the rest of the body. There are two types of nerve tracts that run through the spinal cord: 

  • Sensory nerve tracts supply information, both subconscious and conscious, to the brain. Conscious sensory input may include something we smell, hear or feel. 
  • Motor control nerve tracts receive information from the brain and deliver it to muscle. These nerve pathways allow us to move different parts of the body.

Injury and Paralysis

Injury to the spine and nerve tracts can cause different levels of paralysis. The location of the injury is the determining factor. Someone with paraplegia (the inability to move the lower half of the body) received an injury in a specific part of the spine; someone with tetraplegia (the inability to move upper and lower extremities) experienced an injury in a different spinal area. 

Nerve Transfers 

Our specialists can use a technique called nerve transfers to treat a person with a mid-cervical spinal cord injury, or tetraplegia, to restore some arm and hand function. One member of our team, Dr. Ida Fox, has used nerve transfer to restore movement for some people with paralysis, including: hand opening, hand closing and elbow extension. She also has performed tendon-transfer surgery and other surgical techniques to restore hand and upper-extremity function for people with spinal cord injuries.

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