Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.
Articles » NINDS Spinal Cord Injury Information Page: NINDS

NINDS Spinal Cord Injury Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Spinal Cord Injury Information Page: NINDS

Main condition: Spinal cord injury

Conditions: Spinal cord injury

What is Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when a traumatic event results in damage to cells within the spinal cord or severs the nerve tracts that relay signals up and down the spinal cord. The most common types of SCI include contusion (bruising of the spinal cord) and compression (caused by pressure on the spinal cord). Other types of injuries include lacerations (severing or tearing of some nerve fibers, such as damage caused by a gun shot wound), and central cord syndrome (specific damage to the corticospinal tracts of the cervical region of the spinal cord). Severe SCI often causes paralysis (loss of control over voluntary movement and muscles of the body) and loss of sensation and reflex function below the point of injury, including autonomic activity such as breathing and other activities such as bowel and bladder control. Other symptoms such as pain or sensitivity to stimuli, muscle spasms, and sexual dysfunction may develop over time. SCI patients are also prone to develop secondary medical problems, such as bladder infections, lung infections, and bed sores.

Is there any treatment?
While recent advances in emergency care and rehabilitation allow many SCI patients to survive, methods for reducing the extent of injury and for restoring function are still limited. Immediate treatment for acute SCI includes techniques to relieve cord compression, prompt (within 8 hours of the injury) drug therapy with corticosteroids such as methylprednisolone to minimize cell damage, and stabilization of the vertebrae of the spine to prevent further injury.

What is the prognosis?
The types of disability associated with SCI vary greatly depending on the severity of the injury, the segment of the spinal cord at which the injury occurs, and which nerve fibers are damaged. Most people with SCI regain some functions between a week and 6 months after injury, but the likelihood of spontaneous recovery diminishes after 6 months. Rehabilitation strategies can minimize long-term disability.

What research is being done?
NINDS research on trauma-related disorders such as SCI focuses on increasing scientific understanding of how changes in molecules, cells, and their complex interactions determine the outcome of SCI, and finding ways to prevent and treat these injuries. There is also increasing interest in neural stem and progenitor cells and their potential application in cell replacement therapies for the treatment of complex neurological disorders such as SCI.


Kent Waldrep National Paralysis Foundation
16415 Addison Road
Suite 550
Addison, TX 75001
Tel: 972-248-7100 800-SCI-CURE (925-2873)
Fax: 972-248-7313

Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation
500 Morris Avenue
Springfield, NJ 07081
Tel: 973-379-2690 800-225-0292
Fax: 973-912-9433

National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
1010 Wayne Avenue
Suite 800
Silver Spring, MD 20910-5633
Tel: 301-562-2400 800-346-2742
Fax: 301-562-2401

Miami Project to Cure Paralysis/ Buoniconti Fund
P.O. Box 016960
Miami, FL 33101
Tel: 305-243-6001 800-STANDUP (782-6387)
Fax: 305-243-6017

National Spinal Cord Injury Association
6701 Democracy Blvd.
Bethesda, MD 20817
Tel: 301-588-6959 800-962-9629
Fax: 301-588-9414

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
801 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006-3517
Tel: 202-USA-1300 (872-1300) 800-424-8200
Fax: 202-785-4452

Spinal Cord Society
19051 County Highway 1
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Tel: 218-739-5252 or 739-5261
Fax: 218-739-5262

Related NINDS Publications and Information

  • Spinal Cord Injury: Emerging Concepts
    Report of a 1996 workshop on spinal cord injury research and treatments.
  • Role of the Immune System in Spinal Cord Injury
    Summary of a workshop, "Role of the Immune System in Spinal Cord Injury", held April 5-6, 2000.
  • Functional and Dysfunctional Spinal Circuitry: Role for Rehabilitation and Neural Prostheses
    Summary of NINDS "New Strategies in Spinal Cord Injury," workshop held June, 2000.
  • Fact Sheet: Syringomyelia
    Syringomyelia fact sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Fact Sheet: Myoclonus
    Myoclonus fact sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Spasticity
    Spasticity information sheet compiled by NINDS, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

    This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
    The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD 20892


    By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

    Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise