Spine Specialists On-Call: Paralysis - How Close Are We to Walking Again?

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Doctor Gerard Malanga is one of the innovative leaders in the field of spine and orthopaedic rehabilitation. He is the Director of Pain Management at Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey.

Did you know that a traumatic injury to the spinal cord is not the only cause of paralysis? While most research is done on traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), many spinal cord injuries result from non-traumatic causes such as tumors, spinal stenosis, and infections. These conditions can compress the spinal cord and cause, or contribute to paralysis.

Spine TumorTumors
Spinal tumors are rare and are either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancer). Tumors may encroach into the spinal canal and compress the cord.

Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis can cause the spinal canal to narrow. The spinal canal houses and protects the spinal cord and the nerve roots. When spinal stenosis develops, the spinal cord and nerve roots may be pinched and become inflamed.

Spinal infections are rare. There are different types of infections that may occur in the spine; these include: (1) Discitis: an inflammatory infection of the disc space, (2) Vertebral osteomyelitis: an infection affecting the bones in the spine (vertebrae) and, (3) Epidural abscess: an infection in the tissue that covers the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Paralysis Defined by Function
Medical and allied health professionals define paralysis in terms of function. For example - loss or reduced ability to function (motor skills) and/or feel (sensory abilities). Fortunately, not every paralysis is permanent. Some patients have what are called incomplete spinal cord injuries. In other words, there is still some cord connection and spinal function below the level of the lesion (injured level).

Updated on: 09/14/15
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Spinal Cord Injury: Treating Paralysis
Curtis A. Dickman, MD
This article discusses paralysis due to spinal cord dysfunction. The prognosis after a spinal cord injury is directly related the amount of spinal cord damage, which is determined by how much movement and sensation are lost. Patients with some initial preservation of movement or sensation (incomplete injuries) have a much better prognosis to regain the ability to walk independently than patients with complete loss of sensation and movement from their spinal cord injury(complete injuries).

Active research is being vigorously pursued to find ways to reverse paralysis due to spinal cord injury. Currently research techniques have not yet demonstrated any definitive answers for curing paralysis. We look forward with anticipation to the results of many research trials that are oriented toward curing paralysis.

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Spinal Cord Injury: Treating Paralysis

Treatment in a rehab center is geared towards helping the patient maximize their ability to function and to prevent complications that typically occur with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Learn the typical treatments for SCI.
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