Causes of spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injury is caused by, but not limited to, the following:-
‘ Road accidents involving motor vehicles, pedestrians and motorbikes (most fall in this group).
‘ Sport injuries like rugby, boxing and high jump
‘ Falls (domestic) from buildings, stairs and even tripping in the house
‘ Accidents in places of work especially industries where there could be heavy lifting without machinery aid and objects falling on workers
‘ Penetrating injury or trauma caused by gunshots and knife stabs.
‘ Surgical complications
‘ Attacks like rape, robbery with violence, mugging and physical fighting
Correct identification of Pain
This identification is undertaken as soon as the condition of the patient has stabilized.
Radiologists can help in identification through the following widely accepted methods:-
‘ X-ray. This is a common method used in hospitals to check a person’s head (skull) and chest regions. The basic working of the X-ray is that ionized radiation is passed through the body and to the photographic plate. Once it passes through the body, the calcium in the bones absorbs the X-ray resulting in the bony structures looking whitish on the film.
The two main X-ray techniques include thoracic spine X-ray and Myelogram. Thoracic spine X-ray is an X-ray of the thoracic vertebrae bones while Myelogram also known as lumbosacral spine X-ray is an X-ray of lumbar region and the sacrum.
‘ Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). This method produces a three-dimension image of the body based on the use of uniform strong magnetic fields and radio waves. This identifies the location of the injury and the degree of the spinal cord compression.
‘ Computerized Tomography (CT) scans. This provides a two-dimension X-ray of the bones, body tissues and organs. This method is not as good as an MRI scan but can provide good in checking for bleeding and bone fractures.
Treatment of the injuries
This is done to relieve the compression of the cord and spine stabilization. This is commonly referred to as rehabilitation.
For patients with cervical spine injuries, skeletal traction is recommended. This is done to reduce fracture and relieve any pressure that may be acting on the cord. It is prudent to know that less traction is required for patients with upper cervical spine injuries. Another method that can be used instead of this is the halo traction.
For lumbar and thoracic spine injuries, treatment is aimed at reducing spinal movement. A pillow is usually used to maintain abnormal curvature of vertebral column (lordosis).
To avoid complications of the respiratory system, patients are placed in recumbent position. Aided coughing and breathing with physiotherapy of the chest is highly recommended to prevent pulmonary infection.
Cardiovascular complications can be prevented by giving the injured atropine and oxygen before administering suction and intubation.
Bladder problems can be managed by use of a catheter.
Sexual activity problem can be sorted out by an urologist, who may suggest among other things, use of different sexual styles.
Pressure soreness is overcome by use of specialized rotating motor beds.
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