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Causes of a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is caused by injury to or compression of the spinal cord and / or arteries that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the spinal cord. The causes can be categorized as either traumatic or non-traumatic.

Most common traumatic SCI causes include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents (car, motorcycle)
  • Gunshot
  • Stabbing (knife wounds)
  • Falling
  • Diving into a shallow pool
  • Gymnastics injuries
  • Being thrown off while horseback riding
  • Football injuries
  • Hockey injuries
  • Bicycle accidents

Non-traumatic SCI causes include:

  • Arachnoiditis
  • Ischemia (restricted blood flow)
  • Spina bifida
  • Spinal ataxia (hereditary disease affecting the neuromuscular system)
  • Spinal cysts, tumors
  • Spinal fracture caused by osteoporosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylosis
  • Transverse myelitis (rare) (inflammation of the spinal cord)
  • Vascular malformations (malformations in the blood supply system), such as arteriovenous malformations or spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas
Updated on: 08/18/14
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Exams and Tests for Spinal Cord Injury

It can be easy to identify a spinal cord injury, but it can be hard to identify the extent of the injury right after it happens. Doctors use various scales to assess the SCI, including the ASIA Impairment Scale.
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