Common Spinal Cord Injury Questions

How many people have SCI?
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), approximately 276,000 individuals in the United States live with SCI, "with a range from 240,000 to 337,000 persons."1 NSCISC puts the number of new injuries near 12,500 each year.1

Disabled man in a wheelchair with his dog

Does spinal cord injury mean the spinal cord was cut in half?
No. Not all spinal cord injuries cause the spinal cord to be cut or severed. Paralysis and other symptoms can be caused by spinal cord compression or cord bruising.

If I break my neck, will it cause paralysis?
Not all neck fractures cause spinal cord compression, or for that matter, spinal cord damage. A compression fracture causes the vertebral body to be compressed, sometimes into a wedge shape. However, unlike other types of fractures, the bone stays intact. A common cause of compression fracture is osteoporosis.

Is paralysis always permanent?
No. The answer to this question depends on several factors such as what is compressing the spinal cord, how extensive is the damage to the spinal cord, and how quickly the patient obtains urgent medical care. Not all SCI patients become permanently paralyzed.

Can people with SCI have sex and children?
Spinal cord injury can affect sexual function in men more than women. The problems men face are related to the ability to ejaculate and semen quality (eg, number, motility). Although most women with SCI may not be able to conceive in the first few months after injury, many can eventually become pregnant. If partners cannot conceive, adoption is an option. Couples affected by SCI should discuss their particular problems and concerns with their doctor. There are devices and drugs that may help.

Do people with a spinal cord injury live a long time?
More people with SCI are living longer. Advances in medicine have provided more effective drugs (eg, antibiotics, corticosteroids) and devices (eg, ventilator) that not only enable long-term survival, but add to the patient's quality of life.

Updated on: 03/21/16
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Exams and Tests for Spinal Cord Injury
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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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