Exploring the Recovery Process for Spinal Cord Injuries


Spinal cord injuries occur when one or more of the vertebrae that usually protect the spine are fractured or dislocated, which causes the spinal cord to be stretched or damaged by bone fragments. Spinal cord injuries require emergency care for diagnosis and treatment, and long-term care is usually needed. Here is what to expect after a spinal cord injury.

Emergency Care

One of the first things emergency room personnel do when they suspect a spinal cord injury is to immobilize the head and neck to prevent further damage. Doctors may order imaging tests, including an MRI and CT scan, to determine if there really is a spinal cord injury. Once the injury is confirmed, a rigid brace or axil traction will be used to stabilize the spine and reduce the risk of additional injury. Emergency surgery may also be necessary to remove bone fragments, fractured vertebrae, slipped discs, and anything else pressing on the spine. In some cases, spinal decompression surgery is also performed shortly after the injury to alleviated built-up pressure.


Patients need both physical and emotional support after a spinal cord injury. In the initial stages, therapists usually focus on developing leg and arm strength as well as communication skills, if necessary. Occupational therapists help people with spinal cord injuries re-learn fine motor skills, including things like eating and self-grooming. Overall, rehabilitation is tailored to the patient and their specific needs, including emotional support.

Management of Related Problems

An important part of recovery is managing medical problems that are associated with spinal cord injuries. These include breathing difficulties, pneumonia, circulatory issues, and depression. A patient with spinal cord injuries should report all symptoms to his or her doctor to help develop a care plan.

For any suspected spinal cord injury, seek emergency care at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center. In addition to emergency care, our Las Vegas hospital provides stroke care, a heart hospital, orthopedic care, and much more. For a physician referral or to find out more, please call (702) 731-8000.