Spinal cord injury or disease

What is a spinal cord injury? What is spinal cord disease?

Spinal cord injury (SCI) refers to any injury to the spinal cord that is caused by direct or indirect trauma. The spinal cord, inside the spine, may be crushed or bruised if the vertabrae of the spine is displaced or injured.

Spinal cord diseases include  conditions that affect the function of the spinal cord due to inflammation or infection (such as transverse myelitis), interruption to the spinal cord's blood supply or a spontaneous bleed, or tumours.

The damage to the spinal cord may be complete or incomplete, depending on the degree of injury to the nerve fibers. Incomplete injury can result in movement and sensation abnormalities and a complete injury usually means total loss of movement and sensation. The level and degree of injury to the spinal cord will determine the extent of paralysis (paraplegia or tetraplegia). Patients with a spinal cord injury or disease will have various degrees of difficulties with their mobility, bladder and bowel function and loss of sensation.

How do we help children who have spinal cord injury or disease?

For both Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick (SCH) and The Children's Hospital at Westmead (CHW), all inpatient rehabilitation is accommodated within the acute ward environment. Other specialties (intensive care, trauma team, neurosurgery team, oncology, general medical team etc) refer to rehabilitation for consultation and ongoing management. Outpatient services include multidisciplinary reviews in specialist clinics and close monitoring of the child's health and function. This might include management and treatment of a neurogenic bladder and bowel, orthopaedic complications, symptomatic tethered cord, syringomyelia, pressure ulcers, autonomic dysreflexia,  neuropathic pain and spasticity.