Spinal injury

Definition

The spinal cord contains the nerves that carry messages between your brain and body. The cord passes through your neck and back. A spinal cord injury is very serious because it can cause loss of movement (paralysis) below the site of the injury.

Alternative Names

Spinal cord injury; SCI

Causes

A spinal cord injury may be caused by:

Symptoms

Symptoms of a spinal cord injury may include any of the following:

First Aid

Never move anyone who you think may have a spinal injury, unless it is absolutely necessary. For example, if you need to get the person out of a burning car, or help them to breathe.

Keep the person completely still and safe until medical help arrives.

If the person is not alert or responding to you:

Do not roll the person over unless the person is vomiting or choking on blood, or you need to check for breathing. If you need to roll the person over:

Do Not

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your local emergency number (such as 911) if you think someone has a spinal cord injury. Do not move the person unless there is urgent danger.

Prevention

The following may lower your risk of spinal injury:

References

American Red Cross. First Aid/CPR/AED Participant's Manual. 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: American Red Cross; 2014.

Kaji AH, Newton E, Hockberger RS. Spinal injuries. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 43.


Review Date: 4/13/2015
Reviewed By: Dennis Ogiela, MD, orthopedic surgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation, Danbury Hospital, Danbury, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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