A clinician's view of spinal cord injury


  • H.Louis Harkey III,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Neurosurgery, The University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 North State Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39216-4505
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    • Fax: 601-815-5680

  • Elbert A. White IV,

  • Robert E. Tibbs Jr.,

  • Duane E. Haines


The primary cause of spinal cord injury (SCI) is automobile collisions, followed by violence, falls, and injuries in sporting events. The patient is most frequently a young male. Regardless of cause and age, SCI is a potentially catastrophic injury. The unique anatomical relationship of the spinal cord, being enclosed in the dural sac within the bony vertebral column, make it venerable to a wide range of traumatic insults. SCI is classified as complete or incomplete with several subclasses arranged under each of these respective headings. The probability of recovery to a functional state is usually better for patients with incomplete injuries. Treatment for SCI involves initially immobilizing the injured vertebral column, medications to prevent secondary injury, and potential surgery to release pressure on the spinal cord and restore stability to the vertebral column. Postsurgical care is directed toward prevention and treatment of secondary complications of SCI such as respiratory failure, deep venous thrombosis, and decubitus ulcers. Advances in these areas are providing patients with a greater probability of recovery, a longer life, and a better quality of life. Research in the clinical and basic sciences is opening new avenues of hope for the spinal cord injury patient. Anat Rec (Part B: New Anat) 271BB:41–48, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.