Spinal cord nerve damage, more commonly referred to as spinal cord injury or spinal cord nerve injury is damage to any part of the spinal resulting in permanent changes in the normal function of the spinal cord.
Injury from spinal nerve damage often leads to profound neurologic deficits and disability which is usually evident in body functions below the injured spinal level.
The damages caused are mostly irreversible; the treatment goal is usually towards preventing disability-related complications.
The commonest cause of spinal cord injury is motor vehicle accidents -it is responsible for more than forty percent (40%) of patients.
About a third of patient develops spinal cord nerve damage after a fall, more commonly seen in an individual age 45 years and above.
Notable is the increased incidence of spinal nerve injury in older females with osteoporosis, which is due to an increased rate of fall in them.
Other causes include vascular disorders, infectious disease (e.g. polio), spondylosis, tumors (usually metastatic in origin), developmental disorders and inadvertent injuries, especially during injections to the spine.
Signs and symptoms of spinal nerve damage
The outcome of any spinal cord injury is majorly dependent on the severity of the injury along the spinal cord –the completeness, and the spinal level at which the injury is received –the neurological level.
Complete injury refers to the total loss of sense of feeling and movement ability in the level below the spinal cord injury while incomplete injury has some form of preservation in both sensory and motor function below the spinal level of the injury. Injuries to the spinal cord may present with any of the following
Loss of movement: A sudden inability to move the limb might be the first symptom of spinal injury.
Respiratory dysfunction: There is a direct relationship between spinal cord injury and respiratory dysfunction. It can present with loss of respiratory muscle function leading to respiratory failure. Difficulty in breathing after injury is an emergency which must get immediate medical attention.
Altered sensation: You might lose the ability to feel touch, heat, cold or pain; usually affecting both lower limb
Change in Reflexes: depending on part of the spinal cord affected, you might notice exaggerated or reduce reflexes.
Read More : => Spinal Cord injury
If you noticed a sudden onset of any of the above symptoms, you must present to your doctor. Your doctor will try to figure out the cause of the injury by asking you specific questions after which he will do respiratory, motor and neurological examinations on you.
There are no specific laboratory tests required to make a diagnosis of spinal nerve damage; you will, however, be required to do imaging studies which may include plain radiograph, CT scan, and MRI scan. The essence of the imaging studies is to denote the level and extent of the damage.
An immediate response must be instituted in any suspected case of spinal nerve damage. The first management is usually instituted by the emergency department who ensure the airway is properly managed and attending head injuries in trauma-related cases are taken care of.
There might also be a neurogenic shock which means a temporary seize in function while the spinal cord attempt to figure out what just happened. Neurogenic shock is managed with judicious fluid replacement with normal saline.
The goal of management is to stabilize patient, control signs and symptoms and prevent further progression of the injury. In cases of respiratory insufficiency, a patient might be placed on oxygen to prevent respiratory failure; there might also be a need for immediate surgical intervention in the form of spinal cord decompression surgery.
The commonest complications are:
Lose of bowel control and bladder control: there is usually a resulting difficulty in controlling bowel movement and urination which is due to loss of spinal cord responses. Urinary retention increases the risk of urinary tract infection, you can, however, learn new ways to control your bowel and urination during rehabilitation
Sexual health: There might be difficulty with erection in men and lubrication in women
Paralysis: This is one of the commonest complications of spinal nerve injury with progression in the reduction of muscle mass.
Spinal cord nerve damage is usually debilitating with poor treatment outcome. Rehabilitation offers a coping mechanism. Above all, Live well and do your best to avoid spinal injury.