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Acute Care and Rehabilitation for Spinal Cord Injury

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Acute care at a hospital — usually a designated trauma center with facilities and personnel qualified to treat victims of major accidents — includes surgery for stabilizing the spine and treatment of other injuries.

You may be admitted to an intensive care unit for specialized care during this hospital stay. Once you're medically stable, doctors can begin to prescribe a limited amount of physical and occupational therapy.

Transferring from Hospital to Rehab

You generally are transferred from acute hospitalization to a rehabilitation unit for acute rehabilitation after one to three weeks; the length of time in the hospital depends on the severity of your spinal cord injury and any other injuries you may have.

You must be able to handle at least three hours of rehabilitation therapy daily in order to participate in acute rehabilitation. Those who cannot handle the intense therapy may be transferred to a skilled rehabilitation center as a transitional step.

During the acute care hospitalization, your doctors will ensure that your health is stable before transferring to acute rehabilitation.

A Focus on Restoring Function

Upon entering the rehabilitation unit, the biggest change you encounter is that the focus is no longer on medical management, but rather on restoring function.

Function refers to learning and relearning the necessary skills needed to perform daily life activities.

You also learn how to accommodate and compensate for the physical abilities lost because of the injury to your spinal cord.

An integrated patient care team works collaboratively to address specific issues to help you move toward rehabilitation goals. 

UPMC Rehabilitation Institute Wheelchair Skills Clinic

UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers a free manual wheelchair skills clinic each month.