Spinal trauma is an injury that may involve the vertebrae (bones) of the
spine, of the spinal cord itself, or both. The spinal cord is the bundle
of nerves within the column of protective vertebrae, and it is the all-important
channel of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Although
it is rarely severed in a traumatic accident, anything that causes pressure
on it can cause a very serious injury.
It is possible to injure the bones of the spine without causing any immediate
damage to the spinal cord, but injuries to the bones present a significant
risk of subsequent damage to the cord. Fractures, compression, or dislocations
of the vertebra can place pressure on the cord and disrupt signals between
the brain and the rest of the body. Any individual who suffers trauma
to the spine should be immobilized to prevent damage to the spinal cord
caused by movement of injured vertebrae.
Depending on the severity and location of the spinal trauma, the result
could be a loss of function, feeling, or movement in the spine or limbs.
In general, the higher in the spine the injury occurs the more serious
the prognosis is.
Traumatic injury to the spine or spinal cord can range from mild to severe.
The severity of the injury depends on what was damaged, and where along
the spine the injury is located. The injury may be classified as complete
(when the injury is so severe that it causes complete paralysis or total
loss of mobility and function) or incomplete (when only some motor function is lost).
Paralysis is classified as either paraplegia, meaning a paralysis of the
trunk, lower limbs, and some organs, or quadriplegia, in which the arms,
hands, lower body, legs, and pelvic organs are all affected by the injury.
What Causes Spinal Trauma?
Spinal trauma is often the result of a motor vehicle accident, a sports
injury, a fall, or an assault.
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