Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is the main information pathway between the brain and the peripheral nervous system. A spinal cord lesion is a disruption of this communication caused by a traumatic injury or an illness and it involves the partial or total loss of voluntary movement and sensation below the injury.
The severity of the injury is given by:
The level of the lesion (sacral, lumbar, thoracic or cervical): the higher the injury, the greater the effect on sensitivity and mobility
Completeness or incompleteness of insensitivity and immobility below the lesion
Tetraplegia, also known as Quadriplegia, is caused by damage above the seventh cervical vertebra (C7) and causes paralysis of the limbs and torso, while Paraplegia only affects parts of the torso and lower limbs.
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Traumatic: road accidents, falls, acts of violence, sports injuries
Non traumatic: spinal cord compression, spinal cord ischemia, myelitis, disc deterioration
Paralisis: loss of voluntary mobility.
Anesthesia: loss of sensitivity
There may also be:
Breathing and coughing difficulties, with stagnation of secretions in the lungs
Impaired bladder and bowel control
Changes in sexual function and sensitivity
Chronic pain, unusual sensations in the chest
Cures and Therapy
Although the consequences of the lesions are not reversible at the present moment, much can be done in terms of rehabilitation, intended as the achievement of the greatest degree of autonomy possible:
Rehabilitation of the respiratory function: weaning from controlled ventilation. In the case of a cervical lesion above C4 patients need mechanical ventilation, support, while intermittent pressure devices are used for cases of lower injury that still require some ventilation assistance. Secretions can be managed by respiratory therapy and the use of a cough assistant.
Rehabilitation of the moto-neuron function: recovery of a new coordination above the lesion and strengthening of the remaining muscles.