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Medical Care And Treatment For Spinal Cord Injuries

A half century ago, spinal cord injuries were usually fatal. While there is still no way to reverse the damage, modern technology and research have led to significant improvements in the ability of spinal cord injury victims to recover after an accident. Proper emergency medical care immediately following the injury is essential to minimizing the long-term effects of a spinal cord injury.

The first thing emergency responders will do in treating a suspected spinal cord injury is verify that the person is breathing properly and that his or her heart is beating. An injury to the upper neck can cause a loss of control over breathing and a breathing tube or ventilator may be required to stabilize the victim. Immobilization is the next crucial step. Emergency medical personnel will use tools such as cervical collar and backboard to help prevent the spine from moving. Movement of the spine after a spinal cord injury can lead to further damage.

After initial treatment and stabilization, many spinal cord injuries are treated with surgery. Surgery is generally used to relieve pressure on the spinal cord as well as stabilize the spine itself after an injury.

Modern post-surgical treatment focuses on rehabilitation and preventing further injury. Early care will include aggressive rehabilitation and physical therapy to help the patient maximize his or her chance of recovery. Even with the best medical care, however, some spinal cord injury victims will not experience any meaningful recovery of sensation or function in the affected areas of their body. The majority of recovery, if any, will occur within the first six months after the injury. Loss of function that is still present 12 months after the injury is more likely to be permanent.

There are, however, many new medical techniques and assistive or adaptive devices that can help spinal cord injury victims lead active and productive lives within the limits of their disability. Further, there are a number of different medical professionals who can assist spinal cord injury victims with the long-term rehabilitation process, including physiatrists, neurologists, orthopedists, rehabilitation nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, recreational therapists, vocational therapists and rehabilitation psychologists. All of these professionals can make valuable contributions to a patient’s long-term medical, vocational, educational, environmental and spiritual well-being.

The costs of emergency care, surgery, rehabilitation, adaptive or assistive devices, and attentive care can be enormous. The average cost to the victim of a severe spinal cord injury during the first year is more than $400,000. Quadriplegics who are injured between the ages of 25 and 30 have an average lifetime cost of over $2,000,000. Most people do not have the financial means to pay for expenses and bills during extended or frequent absences from work due to serious injury, and even fewer people have the means to pay for the care and equipment they will need to live a full and satisfying life. Some benefits may be available through private health insurance or government programs, but they will rarely suffice to meet a patient’s long-term needs.

Therefore, obtaining the maximum possible recovery in a lawsuit against the responsible parties can prove to be essential in meeting the extraordinary costs and financial burdens associated with a spinal cord injury.

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