What should I expect after a spinal cord injury?

Following a serious spinal cord injury, British Columbia residents can expect to spend an extended period of time in hospital receiving treatment for their injuries. Treatment will include various medical techniques designed to prevent the spinal cord injury from getting worse and to help it heal as much as possible.

In the first stages of treatment, doctors will try to stabilize the patient's blood pressure and assist the patient in breathing. Steroid medicines may be administered to lower spinal cord swelling. Tests will be performed to evaluate the nature and extent of the damage. Those tests may involve X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and MRIs. The tests will also be repeated later to check on how the patient has been healing.

Several days after being injured, the patient will be tested with pinpricks and light touch throughout the body. Muscle and strength testing will also be administered. Usually, during the first six months of treatment, patients will get the most results, and then healing will taper until the patient arrives at a relatively constant condition.

At some point in treatment, the patient will be released from hospital care, but his or her treatment will not stop there. Rehabilitation for life as an independent person -- or as independent as possible -- will also be carried out. During rehab patients will learn exercises and stretching techniques, how to eat a good diet and stay healthy, learn to manage their bowels and bladder and learn to how to use various accessibility devices for persons with disabilities, like wheelchairs.

British Columbia spinal cord patients may not fully recover from their injuries and could be forced to deal with serious disabilities for the rest of their lives. This means that many spinal cord injury patients will need to spend a lot of money on in-home health services and assistance, and they may not be able to perform their jobs. These individuals may therefore wish to pursue personal injury claims -- if a negligent party was responsible for their injuries. If successfully navigated, such claims could bring a spinal cord injury patient vital compensation to pay for costs related to injuries and/or disabilities.

Source: HealthLink BC, "Living With a Spinal Cord Injury," accessed Oct. 13, 2016

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