Spinal Cord Injuries
Do you have a Spinal Cord Injury? Find out what your symptoms mean—in a few painless clicks.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
When the spinal cord endures any type of sudden trauma, the outcome is known as a spinal cord injury (often abbreviated as an SCI). Sometimes, it is just the nerves that radiate from the spinal cord that become damaged—not the spinal cord itself. But, even so, this form of trauma is still considered to be an SCI. If you have endured any type of spinal cord injury before, you know firsthand how painful the consequences can be, decreasing your mobility and sending sharp pains throughout the entire body. Everything from your strength to your sensation of feeling can be affected by a spinal cord injury.
Spinal cord injuries are categorized into two types—complete injuries and incomplete injuries. Complete spinal injuries result in absolute (and often irreversible) loss of motor and sensory function beneath the level of the injury. When the spinal cord is severed or crushed, the signals that coordinate movement in the limbs between the brain and the body are interrupted. By contrast, incomplete spinal injuries only cause partial or incomplete loss of movement and sensation in the limbs.
Further, you will find that spinal cord injuries are also classified according to the portion of the spinal cord that is injured as well as the number of limbs that are affected by the injury. The most common types of spinal cord injuries that follow this classification system are as follows:
- Anterior Cord Syndrome: Occurs when trauma is sustained to the front of the spinal cord and interrupts the motor and sensory pathways that connect the brain to the body.
- Central Cord Syndrome: Occurs when the center of the spinal cord is damaged and results in impairment of the nerves that send messages to the brain and the spinal cord.
- Paraplegia: Causes sensation to be removed from the lower half of the body; affects ambulation (or your ability to walk).
- Triplegia: Causes sensation to be removed from one arm and both legs.
- Tetraplegia: Extremely severe and can cause paralysis of all limbs.
- Brown-Sequard Syndrome: Causes sensation to be removed from one hemisphere (or side) of the body.
Researching treatment options for a spinal cord injury? Dr. Frazier of NYC Spine has earned the distinction of “Super Doctor” by the New York Times Magazine for his devotion to helping his patients achieve personalized recovery options for a variety of spinal conditions, including SCI. Contact NYC Spine today to access the latest advancements in minimally invasive spine care!
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What are the Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries?
There is no wondering whether or not you have suffered from a spinal cord injury. The symptoms are not subtle at all. Instead, they tend to be very severe in nature and will cause pain throughout much of your body. Even so, the symptoms of your SCI are not sufficient to pinpoint the exact type of spinal cord injury from which you are suffering. To receive a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan, therefore, it is important to seek the medical advice of a qualified professional.
Common symptoms of spinal cord injuries include:
- Paralysis: You may experience temporary or permanent paralysis in the limbs that are innervated by spinal nerves that extend from your spinal cord to your lower or upper body.
- Loss of Sensation or Tingling: You may be unable to detect touch, temperature, or pressure below the point of your injury or your limbs may tingle or burn from neurological damage to your spinal nerves.
- Loss of Sexual Function or Bladder Control: If your injury occurs above your waist, you may experience incontinence (loss of bowel or bladder control), a disruption in sexual desire, and/or impotence.
- Muscle Pain or Spasticity: Lack of communication between the brain and the muscles can cause your muscles to contract for long periods of time (spasticity) or flutter uncontrollably (muscular spasms)
- Difficulty Breathing: Spinal cord injuries that occur in the cervical spine (or neck) can interfere with your ability to breathe and require the use of special equipment (such as a ventilator) to maintain your lung function.
As with most types of injuries, the progress that you are able to make when recovering from a spinal cord injury will depend upon the quality of medical care that you receive. Dr. Frazier of NYC Spine has earned over 20 years of surgical excellence in the field of orthopedic surgery and spinal cord injury management.
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What are the Treatments for Spinal Cord Injuries?
Unlike many other injuries, it is imperative that spinal cord injury treatment begins before you see a physician; this starts by making sure you are as still as possible to prevent further damage from occurring to the spinal cord. You should do your best to avoid moving your spinal cord as much as possible. Once you get to the doctor, he or she will focus on stabilizing your movement so that the long-term effects of your injury can be minimized. You may also require assistance with breathing and keeping your neck still.
Once you have received a diagnosis of your injury, a treatment plan can then be developed. A detailed treatment plan is essential to ensuring you can make as full of a recovery as possible. The most common types of nonsurgical treatments to address these types of injuries include: counseling, exercise regimens and physical therapy, palliative care, lifestyle changes, the use of a ventilator and/or feeding tube, and corrective surgery.
Some individuals with spinal cord injuries will benefit from spinal decompression procedures that relieve pressure off of the spinal cord and accessory spinal nerves. Your doctor may recommend the following minimally invasive decompression techniques:
- Laminotomy/Laminectomy: During a laminectomy or laminotomy, your surgeon will remove the posterior section of your lamina—the bony sheath that houses and protects your spinal cord. Removal of the lamina relieves spinal compression that is caused by spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal column that occurs as a result of your injury.
- Endoscopic Discectomy: If your spine is being compressed by an injured disc in your neck or back, your doctor may be able to restore function by removing the collapsed disc. During an endoscopic discectomy, your doctor uses specialized imaging equipment to visualize your spine and remove problematic tissues that are contributing to the loss of sensation and function in your limbs.
- Artificial Disc Replacement: For cases of SCI that involve a damaged disc, your doctor may also recommend an artificial disc replacement. During this minimally invasive procedure, your doctor removes a injured disc from your spine and replaces the damaged disc with an artificial model that mimics the functionality of the original.
If you would like to learn more about spinal cord injuries and how to properly treat them, it is important that you speak with a highly qualified and experienced professional. Contact Dr. Frazier of NYC Spine to learn more about your recovery options and to access personalized relief!
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Dr. Frazier is a Harvard-trained, board certified orthopedic spine surgeon. He’s held an academic appointment at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York’s SUNY Downstate. Dr. Frazier is also a respected lecturer, accomplished researcher, published author on spine disorders and treatment, and a consultant for several international spine companies.
After completing his undergraduate education at Brown University, Dr. Frazier attended Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. He completed a Harvard internship based at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, MA, followed by a Harvard combined residency before becoming chief resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Education & Training
MD / cum Laude, Boston MA
Harvard Medical School
Residency, Boston MA
Harvard Combined Orthopedic Residency
Chief Residency, Boston MA
Harvard Mass. General Hospital
Spinal Deformity Fellowship, Miami FL
Doctor's Hospital, Shufflebarger Fellowship
Academic Appointments, NY, NY
Columbia University; SUNY Downstate
Nuvasive, Depuy & Stryker International Spine Cos.