Spinal Cord Injury: Pathophysiology, Classification, Treatment, and Complications


Injury to the spinal cord is a devastating event that usually results in significant functional impairments for patients. The incidence of spinal cord injury in the United States alone is roughly 10,000 to 14,000 new cases per year, with a prevalence of 229,000 to 306,000 patients. Motor vehicle accidents and falls are the most common causes. Injuries to the cervical spine make up 55% of all spinal cord injuries, with an equal distribution of injuries to the thoracic, lumbar, and lumbosacral areas. Incomplete tetraplegia is seen in approximately 30% of patients with spinal cord injury, and approximately 25% of patients will have complete motor and sensory loss caudal to the neurologic level of injury. In this article, we review the pathophysiology, diagnosis, radiographic assessment, clinical syndromes, acute management, treatment options, and associated complications of spinal cord injury.

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