A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that causes temporary or permanent changes in its function. India gets lot of such patients especially from countries like Nigeria, Saudi and Iraq. Symptoms may include loss of muscle function, sensation, or autonomic function in the parts of the body served by the spinal cord below the level of the injury. Injury can occur at any level of the spinal cord and can be complete injury, with a total loss of sensation and muscle function, or incomplete, meaning some nervous signals are able to travel past the injured area of the cord.

Depending on the location and severity of damage, the symptoms vary, from numbness to paralysis to incontinence. Long term outcomes also ranges widely, from full recovery to permanent tetraplegia (also called quadriplegia) or paraplegia. Complications can include muscle atrophy, pressure sores, infections, and breathing problems.


Surgery is advised by the neurosurgeon for such cases with severe injury to spinal cord. The main reason for spinal cord injury surgery is to relieve excess pressure on the cord so that the spine can be stabalized and the vertebrae can be put in proper place. In international as well Indian patients we have seen that if surgery is not done immediately then the condition of the patient can worsen in some cases. If there is any compression on the cord due to a fractured bone or blood clots then also the surgery should be performed without much delay. However if the patient has many other injuries and the general condition is not good then we do not rush for the surgery and a more conservative approach like bed rest, cervical collars and motion restriction devices are used. Traction may be used to reduce the pressure on the spinal cord.

In any spinal injury patient, the primary objective of the treatment is to preserve as many functions of the body as possible and to get the patient to a level of self reliance.


SCI patients often require extended treatment in specialized spinal unit or an intensive care unit. The rehabilitation process typically begins in the acute care setting. Usually the inpatient phase lasts 8–12 weeks and then the outpatient rehabilitation phase lasts 3–12 months after that, followed by yearly medical and functional evaluation. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and other health care professionals work as a team under the coordination of a neurosurgeon to decide on goals with the patient and develop a plan of discharge that is appropriate for the person’s condition.

The cost of treatment for such a long period can run into several lacs of rupees and still there might be very little improvement in the condition of the patient. One must therefore be always cautious, careful and stay out of harm's way in order to prevent spinal injury.

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My team of professionals will patiently hear to your complaints, do a thorough examination and would order investigations only to confirm the clinical diagnosis when in doubt. Most of the problems of spine would be treated conservatively if the patients comes to us in time.

Dr. Sudeep Jain, MCh
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