I receive many calls and emails from people and families with spinal cord injury. It is better today compared to 1977 when I took care of my first spinal-injured patient and had to tell the family that there was nothing that we could do. Here is what I say to families now:
  • Focus on solvable problems. Make sure that methylprednisolone is given within eight hours after injury. This drug may improve recovery by 20%. Find the best and most experienced surgeon. If the spinal cord is compressed, make sure that it is decompressed as soon as possible. Prevent complications by insisting on aggressive care of lung, bladder, and skin. Start rehabilitation as soon as possible.
  • Recovery is the rule and not the exception in spinal cord injury. Most people recover some function after spinal cord injury. On average, people with “complete” injuries recover 8% of the function they had lost, compared to 21% if they received methylprednisolone. People with “incomplete” injuries recover 59% of lost function, compared to 75% if they received methylprednisolone. Recovery takes a long time and work. Many people recover function for two or more years after spinal cord injury.
  • Do not give up hope. Most scientists believe that it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when therapies will be available to restore function in spinal cord injury. Clinical trials are testing therapies to restore function after injury. Weigh potential risks and benefits carefully before participating in such trials. Remember that the therapies will get better over time.
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It is better today compared to 1977 when I took care of my first spinal-injured patient
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