Spinal Cord Trauma

What Is It?

The spinal cord carries nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Trauma to the spinal cord can result from a number of injuries: about half occur after motor vehicle accidents; followed by falls; gunshot wounds or other violence; and sports-related injuries. The average age at injury is 42 years, and approximately 80% of those affected are male. Up to one-quarter of cases occur after significant alcohol ingestion. Pre-existing disease in the spine can make spinal cord trauma more likely. For example, complications of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis may lead to spinal cord damage.

Most spinal cord injuries occur in the area of the neck called the cervical region. Trauma can result from bruising to the spinal cord itself, loss of blood flow to the cord or cuts in the cord. Spinal cord injuries are serious and can cause diminished strength, coordination and sensation as well as other functions, such as bladder control.

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