The Baez Law Firm | San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys

The Baez Law Firm | San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys
San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

History of spinal cord injuries

Accounts of spinal cord injuries and their treatment date back to ancient times, even though there was little chance of recovery from such a devastating injury. The earliest is found in an Egyptian papyrus roll manuscript written in approximately 1700 B.C. that describes two spinal cord injuries involving fracture or dislocation of the neck vertebrae accompanied by paralysis.* The description of each was "an ailment not to be treated."

Centuries later in Greece, treatment for spinal cord injuries had changed little. According to the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) there were no treatment options for spinal cord injuries that resulted in paralysis; unfortunately, those patients were destined to die. But Hippocrates did use rudimentary forms of traction to treat spinal fractures without paralysis. The Hippocratic Ladder was a device that required the patient to be bound, tied to the rungs upside-down, and shaken vigorously to reduce spinal curvature. Another invention, the Hippocratic Board, allowed the doctor to apply traction to the immobilized patient's back using either his hands and feet or a wheel and axle arrangement. Hindu, Arab, and Chinese physicians also developed basic forms of traction to correct spinal deformities. These same principles of traction are still applied today.

In about 200 A.D., the Roman physician Galen introduced the concept of the central nervous system when he proposed that the spinal cord was an extension of the brain that carried sensation to the limbs and back. By the seventh century A.D., Paulus of Aegina was recommending surgery for spinal column fracture to remove the bone fragments that he was convinced caused paralysis.

In his influential anatomy textbook published in 1543, the Renaissance physician and teacher Vesalius described and illustrated the spinal cord in all its parts. The illustrations in his books, based on direct observation and dissection of the spine, gave physicians a way to understand the basic structure of the spine and spinal cord and what could happen when it was injured. The words we use today to identify segments of the spine - cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal - come directly from Vesalius.

With the widespread use of antiseptics and sterilization in surgical procedures in the late nineteenth century, spinal surgery could finally be done with a much lower risk of infection. The use of X-rays, beginning in the 1920s, gave surgeons a way to precisely locate the injury and also made diagnosis and prediction of outcome more accurate. By the middle of the twentieth century, a standard method of treating spinal cord injuries was established - reposition the spine, fix it in place, and rehabilitate disabilities with exercise. In the 1990s, the discovery that the steroid drug methylprednisolone could reduce damage to nerve cells if given early enough after injury gave doctors an additional treatment option.

Although the hard bones of the spinal column protect the soft tissues of the spinal cord, vertebrae can still be broken or dislocated in a variety of ways and cause traumatic injury to the spinal cord. Injuries can occur at any level of the spinal cord. The segment of the cord that is injured, and the severity of the injury, will determine which body functions are compromised or lost. Because the spinal cord acts as the main information pathway between the brain and the rest of the body, a spinal cord injury can have significant physiological consequences.

Catastrophic falls, being thrown from a horse or through a windshield, or any kind of physical trauma that crushes and compresses the vertebrae in the neck can cause irreversible damage at the cervical level of the spinal cord and below. Paralysis of most of the body including the arms and legs, called quadriplegia, is the likely result. Automobile accidents are often responsible for spinal cord damage in the middle back (the thoracic or lumbar area), which can cause paralysis of the lower trunk and lower extremities, called paraplegia.

Other kinds of injuries that directly penetrate the spinal cord, such as gunshot or knife wounds, can either completely or partially sever the spinal cord and create life-long disabilities.
Most injuries to the spinal cord don't completely sever it. Instead, an injury is more likely to cause fractures and compression of the vertebrae, which then crush and destroy the axons, extensions of nerve cells that carry signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. An injury to the spinal cord can damage a few, many, or almost all of these axons. Some injuries will allow almost complete recovery. Others will result in complete paralysis.

Until World War II, a serious spinal cord injury usually meant certain death, or at best a lifetime confined to a wheelchair and an ongoing struggle to survive secondary complications such as breathing problems or blood clots. But today, improved emergency care for people with spinal cord injuries and aggressive treatment and rehabilitation can minimize damage to the nervous system and even restore limited abilities.

Advances in research are giving doctors and patients hope that all spinal cord injuries will eventually be repairable. With new surgical techniques and exciting developments in spinal nerve regeneration, the future for spinal cord injury survivors looks brighter every day.
This brochure has been written to explain what happens to the spinal cord when it is injured, the current treatments for spinal cord injury patients, and the most promising avenues of research currently under investigation.

If you or a loved one has suffer from spinal cord injury because of someones negligence, we can help. Visit us at http://www.thebaezlawfirm.com for a free consultation. We care about your legal needs!

1 comment:

Mike Richards said...

No matter the cervical surgical or lumbar surgical burden that troubles your life today.


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