Spinal Cord Injury: FAQ
What is a spinal cord injury?
A spinal cord injury can be caused by either disease or injury to the vertebral column (the bones that surround and protect the spinal cord) or the spinal cord itself. At the site of the injury, the spinal column can be pinched, bruised, banged or completely severed. Some diseases that can result in an injury to your spinal cord include multiple sclerosis, polio, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and cerebral palsy.
How are spinal cord injuries classified?
The level of SCI corresponds to where the injury physically took place. Generally speaking, the higher up the spinal cord the injury occurs, the greater the loss of function. These levels include a letter and a number. The letter represents the general region of the spinal cord that is affected and the number refers to the vertebrae. For example, a C3 injury means the injury occurred at the third cervical vertebra. Additional regions include T (thoracic), L (lumbar) and S (sacral).
Although two people may suffer from the same level and type of SCI, the similarities usually end there. Each person may have different functional capabilities, depending on the degree of injury. SCIs are extremely complicated and usually demand a team of medical professionals to help the person deal with the injury on both the physical and the emotional levels. Regardless of the program you choose for yourself or a loved one, early intervention is also a critical component that can help determine long-term progress after spinal cord injury.
Will I ever walk again?
Is there a "cure" for this injury?
Can I have sex?
Medications such as Viagra are used successfully with many men who experience impotence as a result of SCI. Men and women with SCI can become parents. SCI does not affect a female's ability to conceive but males may need the assistance of a fertility clinic to impregnate their partner.
Will I regain control of my bladder or bowels?
How can I be more independent?
Can I drive again?
What things can I participate in at a wheelchair level?
What long-term medical follow-up is needed?
A spinal cord injury can make you more prone to upper respiratory infection and pneumonia. Most family medical doctors or rehab doctors (physiatrists) will recommend flu shots and vaccine against pneumonia. Painful sensation or spasms can also cause distress.
Good Shepherd offers a spinal cord injury outpatient program whereby a physiatrist and rehabilitation team (rehab nurse, PT, OT, psychologist, care manager) assess your medical, functional, and psychosocial status as well as your equipment and avocational/vocational needs. Together, you and your rehab team will develop strategies designed to enhance your independence and facilitate your transition into vocational or avocational opportunities.
For more information on the Good Shepherd Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program, contact us, call 610-776-3100 or Request an Appointment.