Each year, almost 18,000 people in the U.S. sustain spinal cord injuries that change their lives forever. SCIs impact their ability to do everyday things that many people take for granted.
At the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, our team of SCI and spine disease experts helps you regain your independence.
To learn more about spinal cord injury rehabilitation or to refer a patient, call 1-877-287-3422.
An SCI is damage to the column of nerves that sends signals from the brain to other body parts. These vital nerves branch off from the spinal cord and affect muscles and feeling in the legs, arms, and body.
SCIs can cause people to lose the ability to perform basic functions, such as:
The effects of SCIs vary, depending on which nerves in the spinal cord you damaged. Also, the degree of loss of body functions depends on how severe the injury is.
If you've severed or completely cut the spinal cord, you'll lose function from any of the nerves below the injury site.
The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) labels SCIs as either complete or incomplete.
A complete SCI means the injury has severed the spinal cord, cutting off the nerves below it. This means there's no possibility for function below the site of the SCI.
Doctors call this an ASIA A injury.
An incomplete injury damages the nerve in the spine but doesn't sever the spinal cord.
Doctors further classify incomplete SCIs based on the extent of injury:
Doctors also label SCIs based on the injured nerve and part of the spine:
For instance, a cervical spine injury to the:
Likewise, a thoracic spine injury to the first nerve is a T14 injury.
Cervical SCIs cause the most severe impairment, followed by thoracic SCIs.
SCIs most often result from:
Knowing you have one or more risk factors can help you prevent or lower your risk of an SCI.
For most people, SCIs are life-changing.
The health impacts can range from somewhat minor to extremely severe. It depends on the injury site and if it's a complete or an incomplete SCI.
Complications of SCIs can include:
Your care team will watch for any of these complications. They can help you take steps to avoid them and can treat them if they do occur.
Motor vehicle wrecks cause most SCIs.
You can prevent them by:
Falls are another common cause of SCIs, especially among seniors.
To reduce your chances of falling:
Here are other steps you can take to prevent injury to yourself or others:
Lastly, never move someone who may have a severe injury or trauma to the spine. Moving them can make a spinal cord injury far worse.
Let emergency responders assess and move the person.
Because the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute:
Doctors diagnose SCIs by:
As one of the country's leading rehab programs, the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers state-of-the-art technology and complete services to help you recover.
Technologies like those at the Robotics and Gaming Center help you relearn walking and do daily tasks. This helps you live a more independent life after your rehab stay.
Our SCI rehab team includes experts in:
The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute is home to southwestern Pa.'s only SCI fellowship program.
This is where our fellowship-trained experts teach the next generation of SCI doctors from around the country.