Cok Kinzler PLLP

New research provides hope for spinal cord injuries

A bad fall, a motor vehicle crash or a workplace accident can result in serious injuries. If these injuries involve the spinal cord, you may be facing a future that is defined by pain and struggle. Depending on the severity of the injury and how high on your spine the injury occurs, you may be facing partial or total paralysis.

In some cases, this damage occurs when a break in your back is so severe that it severs the spinal cord. However, more often, this is not the case. In fact, it may be your body's own immune system response that causes the most damage. While doctors and scientists have not yet discovered a way to repair that damage, new research may have the key to preventing it.

How your immune system threatens your spinal cord

Your spinal cord connects your brain to the rest of your body. It is encased in the spine and has the protection of a strong barrier tissue. This barrier prevents potentially dangerous molecules from contacting the sensitive nerves within the spinal column. However, if you suffer an injury to your spine, that barrier may tear, breaching the protection of the nervous system and allowing the body's own immune system in.

As you may know, when you injure yourself, that part of your body may swell. This is the body's inflammatory response, aggressively fighting to isolate the injury. This aggression is too much for the delicate spinal cord. Swelling and inflammation around the spinal cord can result in damage to those unprotected cells, which kills the neurons that transmit signals from the brain.

New treatment

If you know anyone who suffers from life-threatening allergies, you understand how an epi-pen works. A dose of epinephrine immediately reduces the inflammation that may otherwise cause death after exposure to an allergen. Medical science is working on a way to deliver a similar treatment to those who have suffered injuries to their spines.

If you are in a motor vehicle accident resulting in a potential spinal cord injury, medical responders can immediately inject you with a solution of nanoparticles, which has fewer dangerous side effects than steroids. These nanoparticles bind to the inflammatory cells and reroute them from your spinal cord. The hope is that such treatment will reduce the damage from inflammation and allow the nervous system to heal.

High price tag

Of course, any new technology comes with a high price tag, and perhaps no injury is more expensive to treat and manage than a spinal cord injury. Over a lifetime, a victim of a spinal cord injury may end up paying millions for surgeries, therapy, nursing care, equipment and other medical costs. If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury, you deserve the highest quality medical care possible, despite the expense.

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