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Spinal Cord Treatment Centers

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Spinal cord injuries can vary significantly in severity and duration. While patients with minor bruising of the spinal cord may make a full recovery, those suffering from serious spinal cord injuries require extensive treatment that includes a comprehensive rehabilitation and supportive care program at a hospital or treatment center.

Spinal cord injury treatment for the most severe cases can cost an estimated $800,000 in the first year alone. With the help of a qualified attorney, a victim may be able to negotiate a settlement or file a personal injury lawsuit against the person or parties responsible for their spinal cord injury to recover compensation to help defray the sizeable cost of spinal cord injury treatment. Wrongful death attorneys as well as family law attorneys can assist those who have lost a family member as a result of spinal cord injury.

Moreover, those responsible for accidents causing catastrophic injuries, including spinal cord injuries, may be held criminally responsible as well. While a person convicted of an offense such as DWI (not involving an injury accident) may be sentenced to some jail time and DWI fines, those convicted of an offense like vehicular manslaughter typically face far more serious consequences, including a long jail sentence.

Stages of Spinal Cord Injury Treatment

Emergency management of spinal cord injuries includes spinal immobilization, assessment and management of other injuries, radiographic studies (X-rays, MRIs), and appropriate consultation from surgeons, intensive care physicians and neurologists.

Once a patient has been medically stabilized, he or she is transferred to acute rehabilitation. The rehabilitation may take place in the same facility as the emergency care, in a different facility or in a free-standing facility. Spinal cord injury treatment can be inpatient or outpatient depending on the injury and stage of recovery. Approximately 85 percent of patients are ultimately discharged to a private home.


The Spinal Cord Treatment Team

A facility that specializes in spinal cord injury treatment is best positioned to identify and treat all of the potential complications surrounding a spinal cord injury. Focused, high-quality care is paramount to optimizing recovery and preparing for re-entry into society. Spinal injury treatment centers rely on an interdisciplinary team of specialists, including:

  • Physiatrists, or physicians who specialize in physical and rehabilitation medicine, usually serve in the role of primary physician. They may bring in specialists such as spinal surgeons, wound care specialists, neuro-urologists and pulmonologists to consult.
  • Rehabilitation nurses act as advocates, caregivers and educators, and are an integral part of the team.
  • Physical therapists help to improve balance, coordination, range of motion, muscle strength and cardiopulmonary function. Physical therapy also helps patients with mobility — in bed, in a wheelchair or walking, depending on the patient's level of function.
  • Occupational therapists help patients improve their ability with respect to daily activities such as feeding, grooming, hygiene, bathing and dressing — independently or with the use of adaptive equipment.
  • Speech and language pathologists help patients who have difficulty speaking and/or swallowing.
  • Vocational rehabilitation therapists perform educational testing, vocational assessment and career counseling. The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to have the patient return to work or school.
  • Recreational rehabilitation therapists help patients prepare for community reintegration. Leisure activities like arts and crafts, games, and outings limit depression, and functional activities like wheelchair mobility sports training and transit training help build confidence.
  • Psychologists help patients cope with the life changes that follow spinal cord injury, and also provide marital, sex and family counseling.

Spinal Cord Treatment Centers

While location, insurance, experience, outpatient services and other factors should be considered in choosing a treatment center, accreditation from one or both of the following governing bodies indicates the facility is recognized for its specialization in spinal cord injury treatment:

Complications of Spinal Cord Injuries

Stress, depression, social isolation and other emotional problems are common to patients with spinal cord injuries. Medical complications of spinal cord injuries can last a lifetime. Examples include:

  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Respiratory problems
  • Blood clots
  • Pressure sores
  • Blood pressure abnormalities
  • Weakness and immobility
  • Infertility
  • Contractures
  • Pain

An attorney who specializes in spinal cord injuries can pursue a legal claim against anyone whose negligent or criminal act caused your injury.

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) provides accreditation to facilities that offer medical rehabilitation services of the highest standard and quality.

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) currently recognizes and supports via grants 14 Model Spinal Cord Injury System treatment centers nationwide. Model SCI centers (listed below) are national leaders in medical care and patient research, offering the uppermost level of comprehensive specialty care from the time of injury through rehabilitation and re-assimilation back into society.

  • Georgia Regional SCI System
    Atlanta, GA
  • Midwest Regional SCI Care System
    Chicago, IL
  • Mount Sinai SCI Model System
    New York, NY
  • National Capital SCI Model System
    Washington, DC
  • New England Regional SCI Center
    Boston, MA
  • Northeast Ohio Regional SCI System
  • Northern New Jersey SCI System
    West Orange, NJ
  • Northwest Regional SCI System
    Seattle, WA
  • Regional SCI Center of Delaware Valley
    Philadelphia, PA
  • Rocky Mountain Regional SCI System
    Englewood, CO
  • Texas Regional SCI System
    Houston, TX
  • UAB SCI Model System
    Birmingham, AL
  • University of Michigan Model SCI System
    Ann Arbor, MI
  • University of Pittsburgh Model Center on SCI
    Pittsburgh, PA

Accredited facilities offer special programs specific to spinal cord injuries and employ the most current treatment strategies, drug protocols and state-of-the-art equipment to maximize the outcome. Examples include:

  • Driver rehabilitation programs to help patients achieve greater independence with the use of adapted vehicles
  • Pressure mapping and advanced wheelchair seating
  • Advanced male infertility interventions
  • Electrical stimulation to reduce muscle atrophy and improve cardiovascular function
  • Gait rehabilitation with body weight supported treadmill training
  • Spasticity management with oral medications, surgically implanted baclofan pump and botulism motor point blocks
  • Ventilator management
  • Environmental controls (such as for communication devices)
  • Special services for children

Compensation for Spinal Cord Injury

Despite the best efforts of medical specialists and spinal cord treatment centers, currently there is no cure for spinal cord paralysis. While no amount of money can eliminate the pain and suffering that accompany a spinal cord injury, compensation in the form of a settlement or court award can help ease the long-term financial burden placed on the victim and his or her family as a result of the injury. Many victims have expensive hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation and counseling bills, reduced earning potential and the need for lifelong supportive care. As a result, it is imperative that you speak with a personal injury lawyer who can help you recover financial compensation from any parties whose negligent actions were responsible for your injuries. If you have lost a family member to a spinal cord injury, you should contact a lawyer with experience in wrongful death lawsuits to discuss your legal rights. For assistance with wills, estates and other matters of the family, you should contact a attorney specializing in family law.

Did You Know?

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, 11.5 percent of spinal cord injury victims are employed within one year of their injuries.

Duration of Rehabilitation

The average spinal cord injury patient is hospitalized for 12 days immediately following injury and spends 37 days in a rehabilitation unit, though patients with more serious injuries frequently require much longer stays.

Source: Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation