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What happens with a SCI?
Once you are injured and suspect a spinal cord injury, the first goal is stabilization of your breathing, blood pressure, and other vital signs. Most likely you have been in a Level 1 Trauma Center. Medications may be used to control the damage to the spinal cord, alleviate pain, treat infections and other issues. You may even be sedated and put into traction to prevent further damage. These could be braces, harness, weights or a neck collar or halo.
Neuroprotection therapy will be started to stop immediate responses of swelling. Steroids can help reduce damage to nerve cells if given in the first 8 hours. Lowering of the body’s core temperature can protect cells from damage as it reduces swelling and inflammation. Then they will classify the injury using x-rays, MRI’s and CT scans. Classifications may be orthopedic (broken bone) or neurological. They will pinpoint the lowest level on the spine where nerves are fully functioning and that will be your category. They may recommend surgical intervention. This can remove bone fragments, foreign objects, blood clots, herniated disks, fractured vertebrae, spinal tumors or anything else that may compress the spine.
The lungs themselves are not usually affected by paralysis, but muscles in the chest, abdomen and diaphram may be. You may need a ventilator for assistance for short periods of time. If you were injured in a water sport you may be at risk of pneumonia, lung damage and other issues. Your age and level of injury impacts successful weaning from a ventilator. An injury at the mid-thoratic level may cause difficulty in taking deep breaths or exhaling forcefully. You will learn proper posture, how to cough regularly or with assistance. Be sure to follow a healthy diet, exercise, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid smoking or being around smoke.