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Emergency treatment of a spinal cord injury

When a person suffers a spinal cord injury, it is imperative to seek medical attention without delay. The sooner a person is treated, the better chance he or she has of making a recovery.

Above all else, the patient's spinal column, blood pressure and breathing should be stabilized. This is typically done by the medical team that arrives on the scene. From there, the patient is transported to a Level 1 Trauma Center, as these facilities have the experience and equipment necessary to deal with the injury.

Once the person is stabilized, doctors may use a variety of medications to control damage, treat infection and alleviate pain. In some cases, the patient is sedated as a means of preventing additional injury.

At some point, physicians will use a variety of tests, such as MRIs and x-rays, to determine the extent of the injury. Along with this, the patient will go through a neurological examination.

Unlike a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury does not typically call for immediate surgery. Instead, once the patient is stabilized, he or she will speak with a surgeon about this type of treatment. For example, spinal fusion may be an option.

If a person suffers a spinal cord injury, he or she should be treated as quickly as possible. Emergency treatment is advanced and detailed, but it can help the person become stabilized, while improving the chance for a better recovery.

There is never a time when a spinal cord injury should be taken lightly. Even if the person is still able to move, immediate attention is required.

Source: The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, "Emergency management: What immediate medical procedures can I expect?," accessed June 25, 2015

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