Although treatments for spinal injuries have advanced tremendously over recent years, there is at present no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord. Fortunately, patients have several options when it comes to promoting nerve cell regeneration, improving nerve function, preventing further injury, and enhancing independence and quality of life.
Below is a brief overview of spinal cord injury (SCI) treatments that may be administered after accident trauma:
At the Scene of the Accident
Prompt medical attention is critical to minimizing the effects of a spinal cord injury. Emergency responders typically immobilize the spine using a neck collar and then transport the patient to the hospital using a rigid carrying board.
At the Hospital
Once the patient arrives at the emergency room, healthcare providers take further steps to immobilize the neck and back. They also focus on maintaining the person’s breathing and preventing shock.
If it is an acute injury, medical personnel may administer the following treatments:
- Surgical Interventions: If tissue or fluid is pressing on the spinal cord, doctors may perform a surgery called decompression laminectomy. They may also remove disk and bone fragments and any foreign objects that penetrated the spine during impact. Some patients benefit from spinal bone fusion surgery or spinal braces.
- Traction Stabilization: This is a technique that helps bring the spine into proper alignment.
- Methylprednisolone: This is a steroid medication that may assist with recovery if administered within 8 hours of the injury. According to the National Institutes of Health, methylprednisolone is believed to work by reducing inflammation near the injury site and minimizing nerve cell damage.
- Experimental Treatments: New treatments are continually being introduced to promote nerve cell regeneration, reduce inflammation, and prevent cell death.
After their condition stabilizes, patients are often transferred to spinal injury centers, where orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, therapists, psychologists, and other specialists develop personalized short- and long-term treatment plans.
Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
The types of rehabilitation an SCI patient undergoes will depend on the severity of the injury, where it occurred on the spine, and how it has affected their life. Common types of rehabilitation include:
- Administering physical therapy to strengthen the patient’s muscles and improve mobility;
- Using wheelchairs, leg braces, and other devices to improve mobility;
- Using occupational therapy to enhance fine motor skills;
- Using adaptive technologies to help the patient communicate;
- Teaching strategies to cope with pain and spasticity;
- Teaching techniques for hygiene and bowel and bladder movement;
- Using vocational therapy to help the patient earn an income;
- Using electrical stimulation to restore autonomic, neuromuscular, and sensory functions such as respiration and bladder movement;
- Using social activities and recreational therapy to improve quality of life; and
- Teaching diet and exercise strategies to prevent diabetes and obesity, which occur at higher rates to people with spinal cord injuries.
Ongoing Medical Care for Spinal Cord Injury Patients
People with SCI often require ongoing medical care to prevent complications and improve quality of life. These treatments typically focus on preventing bedsores, infections, blood clots, and bladder and bowel issues.
Breakthrough Technologies for Spinal Cord Injury Patients
Recent innovations are helping SCI patients live more independent lives and, in some cases, regain motor function. The following technologies have had a marked impact on spinal cord injury treatment and recovery:
- Electric Wheelchairs: Modern wheelchairs are incredibly versatile, capable of traversing rough terrain, climbing stairs, and lifting the seated person so they can reach high places without assistance.
- Electrical Stimulation Technology: These systems use electrical stimulators to control muscles in the legs, arms, and throughout the body, enabling people with SCI to reach, grip, and even walk.
- Voice Recognition Systems: Almost any modern appliance and electronic device can now be operated using voice recognition systems.
Coping with a Spinal Cord Injury
Adjusting to life after a spinal cord injury takes time. The entire family often experiences a period of grief as they come to terms with the lifestyle and relationship changes associated with an SCI.
It is not uncommon for people with SCI to fall into depression, causing them to avoid social situations and sometimes leading to drug or alcohol abuse. If this happens, patients may benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, therapist, or social worker. There are also support networks online and throughout the United States that connect people who have sustained SCIs so they can share their thoughts and experiences and discuss strategies for adapting to home and work.
Restoring independence can greatly reduce the feelings of depression and isolation associated with SCI. In addition to the aforementioned technologies that improve mobility, people with SCI may also benefit from installing ramps, modified doorknobs and sinks, and wider doors in their homes to help them live autonomously.
Obtaining Compensation to Cover Medical Bills and Other Expenses
The lifetime cost of a spinal cord injury can reach millions of dollars. Beyond the initial treatment and rehabilitation, many patients need ongoing care and are unable to earn an income after reaching maximum medical improvement.
Fortunately, there are several potential ways for people with SCI to pay for their medical needs and maintain their financial security. For example, you may be eligible for a government grant that covers your healthcare bills, living expenses, and even pays for you to return to school. You can browse through these grants here.
If your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing, you might also have the right to file a personal injury claim against the person, company, or government entity responsible. Here are just a few scenarios that may warrant such a claim:
- Spinal injuries due to a car, truck, bicycle, bus, or pedestrian accidents;
- Spinal injuries due to violent attacks;
- Spinal injuries due to slips and falls; or
- Spinal injuries due to medical malpractice.
Depending on the cause of your accident and the types of insurance you carry, you may also be able to file a claim against your own insurance company. For instance, if you have medical payments coverage (med pay) and you are injured in a car accident, this policy may cover your medical bills up to your policy limits no matter who caused the collision.
Speak with a Spinal Cord Injury Attorney in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone in your family has suffered a spinal cord injury and you’re worried about your financial security, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. Attorney Michael Waks will evaluate your situation for free and help you identify all potential avenues for pursuing compensation.
Insurance companies can be ruthless when it comes to undervaluing and denying claims. This is especially true in spinal cord injury cases involving significant damages, but Michael Waks has years of experience negotiating with claims adjusters and helping clients recover the settlements they deserve. If necessary, he takes these cases to Trial where he can bring in medical, financial, and vocational experts to assist in securing the appropriate compensation for his clients..
Our law firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call. Dial (562) 206-1939 to set up a free consultation with a spinal cord injury attorney. You can also send us a message online using our Contact Form.
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