Get answers to your Spine related questions.
Spinal cord injury; Compression of spinal cord; SCI; Cord compression
Spinal cord trauma is damage to the spinal cord. It may result from direct injury to the cord itself or indirectly from damage to surrounding bones, tissues, or blood vessels.
Spinal cord trauma can be caused by any number of injuries to the spine. They can result from motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries (particularly diving into shallow water), industrial accidents, gunshot wounds, assault, and other causes.
A minor injury can cause spinal cord trauma if the spine is weakened (such as from rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis) or if the spinal canal protecting the spinal cord has become too narrow (spinal stenosis) due to the normal aging process.
Direct injury, such as cuts, can occur to the spinal cord, particularly if the bones or the disks have been damaged. Fragments of bone (for example, from broken vertebrae, which are the spine bones) or fragments of metal (such as from a traffic accident or gunshot) can cut or damage the spinal cord.
Direct damage can also occur if the spinal cord is pulled, pressed sideways, or compressed. This may occur if the head, neck, or back are twisted abnormally during an accident or injury.
Bleeding, fluid accumulation, and swelling can occur inside the spinal cord or outside the spinal cord (but within the spinal canal). The accumulation of blood or fluid can compress the spinal cord and damage it.
Most spinal cord trauma happens to young, healthy individuals. Men ages 15 - 35 are most commonly affected. The death rate tends to be higher in young children with spinal injuries.
Risk factors include participating in risky physical activities, not wearing protective gear during work or play, or diving into shallow water.
Older people with weakened spines (from osteoporosis) may be more likely to have a spinal cord injury. Patients who have other medical problems that make them prone to falling from weakness or clumsiness (from stroke, for example) may also be more susceptible.
Evans RW, Wilberger JE, Bhatia S. Traumatic disorders. In: Goetz CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 51.
Ling GSF. Traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 422.
Tator CH. Recognition and management of spinal cord injuries in sports and recreation. Neurol Clin. 2008 Feb;26(1):79-88; viii.
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