Traumatic spinal cord injuries are emergencies, and the person who's injured may not be able to participate in his or her care in the beginning. A number of specialists will be involved in stabilizing the condition, including a doctor who specializes in nervous system disorders (neurologist) and a surgeon who specializes in spinal cord injuries and other nervous system problems (neurosurgeon), among others. The rehabilitation team, which will include a variety of specialists, will be led by a doctor who specializes in spinal cord injury.
If you have a possible spinal cord injury or you accompany someone who's had a spinal cord injury and can't provide the necessary information, here are some things you can do to facilitate care.
What you can do
- Be prepared to provide information about the circumstances of the event that caused the injury, including any that may seem unrelated.
- Ask another family member or friend to join you when you're speaking with the doctors, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided. Someone who accompanies you may remember the details and help you communicate them to the person with the injury at the appropriate time.
- Write down questions to ask the doctors.
For a spinal cord injury, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:
- What's the prognosis?
- What will happen in the short term? What will happen over the long term? What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- What types of side effects can be expected from treatment?
- Could surgery help?
- What type of rehabilitation might help?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- What research is being done to help this condition?
- Do you have brochures or other printed material? Are there websites you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from the doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask questions, including:
Oct. 22, 2011
- What were the circumstances that led to your injury?
- When did it occur?
- What do you do for work?
- With whom do you live?
- Do you or anyone in your family have a history of blood clots?
- Do you have any other medical conditions?
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- Hansebout RR, et al. Acute traumatic spinal cord injury. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed June 21, 2011.
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- Fouad K, et al. Spinal cord injury and plasticity: Opportunities and challenges. Brain Research Bulletin. 2011;84:337.
- Van den Berg MEL, et al. Survival after spinal cord injury: A systematic review. Journal of Neurotrauma. 2010;27:1517.
- Marsh BC, et al. Movement rehabilitation after spinal cord injuries: Emerging concepts and future directions. Brain Research Bulletin. 2011;84:327.
- Fast facts: Spinal cord injury. ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation. http://www.thinkfirst.org/About/Facts.asp. Accessed July 1, 2011.
- Emken JL, et al. Feasibility of manual teach-and-replay and continuous impedance shaping for robotic locomotor training following spinal cord injury. Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. 2008;55:322.
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